US: New satellite imagery reveals that several areas across the United States are all but certain to suffer water-related catastrophes, including extreme flooding, drought and groundwater depletion. According to a paper, published in Science there is an urgent need to address these current and rapidly emerging water issues at the national scale.
“We don’t recognise the dire water situation that we face here in the United States,” said lead author Jay Famiglietti, a professor of Earth System Science at the University of California, Irvine, and Director of the UC Center for Hydrologic Modeling (UCCHM). Since its launch in 2002, Famiglietti and co-author Matt Rodell, Chief of the Hydrological Sciences Laboratory at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center, have been using data from the NASA Gravity Recovery and Climate Experiment (GRACE) satellite mission to track changing freshwater availability all over the world.
“Worldwide, groundwater supplies about half of all drinking water, and it is also hugely important for agriculture, yet without GRACE we would have no routine, global measurements of changes in groundwater availability,” said Rodell. “Other satellites can’t do it, and ground-based monitoring is inadequate.”
Using GRACE data, the researchers were able to identify several water ‘hotspots’ in the United States, including its key food producing regions in 1) California’s Central Valley, and 2) the southern High Plains aquifer; a broad swath of the southeastern U . that has been plagued by persistent drought, including 3) Houston, Texas, 4) Alabama, and 5) the Mid-Atlantic region; and 6) the flood-prone upper Missouri River basin. They also noted that since 2003, the wetter, northern half of the US has become wetter, while the drier, southern half has become drier.