2013-02-12. NASA Satellite Data Find Freshwater Losses in Middle East

posted Feb 21, 2013, 1:21 PM by Lisa Ou
 | NASA RELEASE 13-049. Relevant to GSS Ecosystem Change chapter 3. Excerpt:  A new study using data from a pair of gravity-measuring NASA satellites finds that large parts of the arid Middle East region lost freshwater reserves rapidly during the past decade. ...during a seven-year period beginning in 2003, parts of Turkey, Syria, Iraq and Iran along the Tigris and Euphrates river basins lost 117 million acre feet (144 cubic kilometers) of its total stored freshwater. That is almost the amount of water in the Dead Sea. The researchers attribute about 60 percent of the loss to pumping of groundwater from underground reservoirs. ...NASA's twin Gravity Recovery and Climate Experiment (GRACE) satellites, are essential. GRACE is providing a global picture of water storage trends and is invaluable when hydrologic observations are not routinely collected or shared beyond political boundaries. "GRACE data show an alarming rate of decrease in total water storage in the Tigris and Euphrates river basins, which currently have the second fastest rate of groundwater storage loss on Earth, after India," said Jay Famiglietti, principle investigator of the study and a hydrologist and professor at UC Irvine. "The rate was especially striking after the 2007 drought. Meanwhile, demand for freshwater continues to rise, and the region does not coordinate its water management because of different interpretations of international laws." ...The team calculated about one-fifth of the observed water losses resulted from soil drying up and snowpack shrinking, partly in response to the 2007 drought. Loss of surface water from lakes and reservoirs accounted for about another fifth of the losses. The majority of the water lost ...was due to reductions in groundwater. ..."The Middle East just does not have that much water to begin with, and it's a part of the world that will be experiencing less rainfall with climate change," said Famiglietti. "Those dry areas are getting dryer. ...Study co-author Matt Rodell of Goddard added it is important to remember groundwater is being extracted unsustainably in parts of the United States, as well. "Groundwater is like your savings account," Rodell said. "It's okay to draw it down when you need it, but if it's not replenished, eventually it will be gone." …. Read the full article: http://www.nasa.gov/home/hqnews/2013/feb/HQ_13-049_Middle_East_Groundwater.html