Study: Aquifers Draining Quickly, Less In Pacific Northwest

May 21, 2013

Middle Fork of the Boise River
Credit KelleyTravel / Flickr

A new study says the nation’s aquifers are shrinking at an alarming rate The problem is not as bad in the Northwest, thanks to an abundance of rivers and streams. But even here, aquifers are shrinking.

Think of all the water in Lake Erie. Then double it. That’s how much water has drained since 1900 from aquifers in the U.S. When these underground water bodies shrink, it means less water for cities, farms and streams.

The U.S. Geological Survey studied aquifers across the country. Study author Leonard Konikow found aquifer systems in the Pacific Northwest are in better shape than others.

Konikow says one reason is the Northwest has lots of rivers and streams. That puts less pressure on groundwater and can help recharge the aquifers.

He says water has been draining from the Columbia Plateau and Snake River Plains aquifer systems faster in the past 40 years. “Water supplies derived from groundwater are basically unsustainable. They can’t continue at the present rate of development indefinitely.”

He says, if this trend continues, the aquifer systems could be severely depleted by 2030.

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