Aug. 8, 2016
by Historical Climatologist Evelyn Browning-Garriss & Climatological Analyst James J. Garriss
In late July, the Tropical Pacific cooled enough to create La Niña conditions and dry La Niña weather. Already more than half (50.9 percent) of the continental US is in dry or drought conditions.
Fortunately, a very large source of water has been discovered. A new study, “Salinity of deep groundwater in California: Water quantity, quality, and protection” by Mary Kanga and Robert B. Jackson, published in the June 27 Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences reveals that there is triple the amount of groundwater under California’s Central Valley as expected. The authors noted that previous estimates of California’s underground water supply examined data from California’s Groundwater Assessment Program. Almost all of this data was decades old and the surveys only extended down to 1,000 feet (305 m.), or less. Back when the studies were conducted, deeper drilling was not technologically/economically feasible.
So they looked outside the box. Gas and oil exploration also surveys the ground – and shows water amounts and salinity for thousands of feet. The data showed abundant water that is now technologically and economically available. This type of data is readily available throughout North America and since hydrofracking is taking place in regions that are increasingly prone to drought, it is worth examining.
Dark orange – risk of dry weather in 20 percent of years
The areas with the greatest risk of dry weather or floods during an El Niño (top) and La Niña (bottom)
Hydrofracking has explored and reported underground water in many areas facing increased risk of dry weather.
Many states, including Texas and parts of the Great Plains and Midwest, own surface waters in trust for the public, while landowners own and have more control of their aquifers. These rights are subject to common law (you may be able to drain your neighbors water if you share an aquifer but you cannot maliciously or negligently damage their lands) and, sometimes, local groundwater conservancy districts. In general, however, the legal hassles of accessing this water is much lighter than trying to obtain new sources of surface water.
This issue and the next issue of the Browning World Climate Bulletin goes into more detail on this but the general news is that freely available data is showing a lot of available fresh water – right before we go into a La Niña and its dry weather! What wet and refreshing news! -TBB
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