Fewer of the world’s large aquifers are depleting than previously estimated, according to a new study by the University of Sussex and UCL. Groundwater, the world’s largest distributed store of freshwater, plays a critical role in supplying water for irrigation, drinking and industry, and sustaining vital ecosystems. Previous global studies of changes in groundwater storage, estimated using data from the GRACE (Gravity Recovery and Climate Experiment) satellite mission and global models, have concluded that intensifying human water withdrawals in the majority of the world’s large aquifer systems are causing a sustained reduction in groundwater storage, depleting groundwater resources. Yet this new study, published in Earth System Dynamics , reveals that depletion is not as widespread as reported, and that replenishment of groundwater storage depends upon extreme rainfall that is increasing under global climate change. Lead author, Dr Mohammad Shamsudduha, Lecturer in Physical Geography and a member of the Sussex Sustainability Research Programme at the University of Sussex, said: “The cloud of climate change has a silver lining for groundwater resources as it favours greater replenishment from episodic, extreme rainfalls in some aquifers located around the world mainly in dry environments. This new analysis provides a benchmark alongside conventional, ground-based […]

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