Groundwater is the drinking water source for more than 2 billion people, and provides more than 40% of the water for irrigated agriculture worldwide. Its use has impacted environmentally critical streamflow in more than 15% of streams globally, and could impact the majority of streams by 2050.
Around 1.7 billion people live above aquifers, geologic formations that provide groundwater, that are stressed by overuse. Poor groundwater quality disproportionately hits poor people with access to insecure drinking water sources - often unprotected shallow groundwater resources.
In contrast to surface water, groundwater is stored beneath the ground's surface, held in porous rock, sand, and soil. That water seeps out, or discharges, into waterways. The groundwater is also replenished in what is called "recharge" when precipitation falls. As such, a balance is created. But events like drought or extreme downpours—features of a warming planet—have an impact on restoring that balance.
Groundwater systems take a lot longer to respond to climate change than surface water, with only half of the world's groundwater flows responding fully within 'human' timescales of 100 years. In many parts of the world changes in groundwater flows due to climate change could have a very long legacy, an environmental time bomb, because any climate change impacts on recharge occurring now, will only fully impact the base flow to rivers and wetlands a long time later. (source: ecowatch.com)
While scientists and governments seek solutions, we can all help by saving water, limiting waste with little daily gestures, such as turning off the tap when not strictly necessary.
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