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Home / Science / "This is an eye-opener": Changes in the global water supply point to future conflicts and crises

"This is an eye-opener": Changes in the global water supply point to future conflicts and crises



Indian Arm and Belcarra are seen from a helicopter on November 25, 2016 in Burnaby, British Columbia.

JONATHAN HAYWARD

Combining satellite data from 14 years ago, scientists have created an amazing portrait of The world's water supply is undergoing rapid transformation. The new analysis points to areas where there is an increasing potential for conflict, as growing water demand collides with the effects of climate change. In Canada, the maps show changing water supplies, which in many areas of the country include wetter, more flood risk areas, but general dehydration in the western subarctic.

"This is an eye-opener," said Roy Brouwer, economist and senior director of the Water Institute of the University of Waterloo, who was not involved in the analysis. "It raises awareness that things are changing and that in some areas something needs to be done to tackle some of the disasters that may await us in the not-too-distant future."

The analysis is based on data from the Gravity Recovery and Climate Experiment, or GRACE, a NASA-led mission launched in 2002 that included two satellites in tandem about 220 kilometers apart. A microwave link between the two satellites allowed scientists to precisely monitor minute changes in their separation up to a distance of 1

0 micrometers or about one-tenth the width of a human hair.

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The setup created a sort of flying weight scale that could be used to measure light regional variations in gravity. Many of these variations are due to geological features such as mountain ranges, which do not change over time. But through measurements over many years, the satellite also picked up on changes mainly due to the movement of large amounts of water at or near the Earth's surface.

Researchers have published many results based on GRACE data, but the new analysis Wednesday in the journal Nature is the first time that all available observations from the mission from April 2002 to March 2016 have been analyzed and compiled to one to deliver a comprehensive map of water trends around the world. These trends include changes in the areas where water is stored above the surface, including groundwater, soil moisture, glaciers, snow cover, and surface water. The result points to a water landscape that is changing worldwide, largely due to human activities and climate change.

"The human fingerprint is everywhere on what we see on the map," said Jay Famiglietti's resource expert, who works with NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California, and the new head of the Global Institute for Water Security University of Saskatchewan collaborates.

Dr. Famiglietti, co-author of the Nature study, played a pivotal role in interpreting GRACE mission data throughout her lifetime. He added that the new analysis points to profound changes in the Earth's water resources that should serve as a wake-up call to policymakers.

"This card has implications for food security, water security and human security in things like conflict and climate refugees," he said.

Dr. Famiglietti and his colleagues identified a total of 34 regional water storage trends observed by GRACE. Some are probably due to natural fluctuations during the observation period. For example, the Amazon Basin looks like it's getting wetter because the area has recovered from a drought. The same applies to a region that focuses on the Canadian plains and parts of the United States. In the long term, these trends can disappear.

The most obvious changes are clearly due to climate change, and are related to ice loss in the polar regions and in some mountainous regions such as Alaska and the southern Andes in southern America. Others show places where people directly influenced the water reservoir.

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One example is a large area of ​​declining water supply in parts of the Middle East, including Syria and Iraq. The shortage is related to dam construction in Turkey and the overuse of groundwater, both of which have aggravated an already complex and volatile political situation in the region.

Similar bottlenecks in India reflect the effects of subsidized electricity, which has created a "perverse" phenomenon spurring "that it is cheap to pump more groundwater than can be replenished," said Dr. Brouwer.

Overall The map shows how the world's water is moving more and more from natural reservoirs like glaciers to man-made reservoirs. This has many political implications if it crosses international borders, said Aaron Wolf, a water conflict expert at Oregon State University.

"This type of data really helps us detect hotspots before real crises," he said.

Support for the GRACE mission officially ended last fall and the last of the satellites burned down as its orbit centered March, a follow-up mission with two new satellites that will continue the gravity measurements is currently underway Launched Tuesday from Vandenberg Air Force Base in California.

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LOOKING AT THE WATERFLOW

Satellite data collected over a 14-year period dramatically changed global water supply, partly due to natural variability, but also due to human activity and climate change

Global trends Water Storage

Average Annual Change in Water Volume (cm) [19659026] Canada's agricultural heartland is becoming increasingly wet as precipitation patterns shift as the southern US dehydrates

Eastern Brazil shows water loss due to drought. A gain in the southwest can be largely attributed to dam construction

The strongest change in water supply on the planet is due to the continued loss of ice in polar and mountain regions

dams and depletion of groundwater for Agriculture has aggravated political crises in the Middle East

The complex trends in water supply in South Asia are in part due to a shift from natural to man-controlled deposits

Africa will probably show more extreme changes the coming years, when groundwater resources are used

ivan semeniuk, JOHN SOPINSKI and

murat yükselir / THE GLOBE AND THE MAIL,

SOURCE: Emerging trends in global availability of freshwater, doi.org

WATCHING THE WATERFLOW

Satellite data over a period of time 14 years of age, show dramatic changes in global water supply due in part to natural variability, but also to human activity and climate change

Glo Bal Water Storage Trends

Average annual change in water abundance (cm)

Canada's agricultural heartland is becoming ever wetter as precipitation patterns shift as the southern US dehydrate

East Brazil reports water loss on to drought. A gain in the southwest can be largely attributed to dam construction

The strongest change in water supply on the planet is due to the continued loss of ice in polar and mountain regions

dams and depletion of groundwater for Agriculture has aggravated political crises in the Middle East

The complex trends in South Asian water supply are partly due to a shift from natural to human controlled

controlled deposits

Africa is likely to be around to show more extreme changes in the coming years when groundwater resources are used

ivan semeniuk, JOHN SOPINSKI and murat yükselir /

THE GLOBE AND THE LETTER, SOURCE: Emerging trends in global availability of freshwater, doi.org

WATCHING THE WATERFLOW

Satellite data over a period of time of 14 years, show dramatic changes in the water supply of the world, partly due to natural variability, but also due to human activities and climate change.

G Trends in water supply

Average annual water level change in water [cm]

Canada's agricultural heartland is getting more and more wet as precipitation patterns shift while the southern US is drying up

East Brazil shows water loss due to drought. A gain in the southwest should be largely due to dam construction

The strongest shift of water supply on the planet is due to continued ice loss in polar and mountain areas

Dams and depletion of groundwater for agriculture have exacerbated the political situation in the Middle East

The complex trends in South Asian water supply are partly due to a shift from natural to man-controlled storage

Africa is likely to experience even more extreme changes in the coming years if groundwater resources are used [19659068] ivan semeniuk, JOHN SOPINSKI and murat yükselir / THE GLOBE AND MAIL, SOURCE: New trends in global availability of freshwater, doi.org


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