Sunday, June 28, 2015

Effects of Underground Water Overuse

by Anton Antonio
June 15, 2015

“Earth’s surface area is 510 million square kilometers.  149 million square kilometers is land while 361 square kilometers is water.  This translates to 70.8% of the Earth’s surface is water while 29.2% is land.  This simply means that a majority of the Earth’s surface is water and our planet is predominantly viewed as a liquid planet.  This is great news, isn’t it?  Water, being a life-support element, perpetuates the existence of life forms on Earth.  But wait, and here’s the bad news… most of the water available to us is unfit for human consumption.  Although 70.8% of the Earth’s surface is water, only 3.5% of this is fresh water which is actually consumable… 96.5% is salt water and is unfit for human consumption.  Other sources of fresh water are water vapour which exists in the air, rivers and lakes, and icecaps and glaciers; which, however, are quite difficult to estimate.  All these point to an abundance of water supply for humanity.  But is 361 million square kilometers of water usable?... hardly not.   The total water volume on Earth is calculated to be 326 million trillion gallons and the total fresh water available for human consumption is 11 million trillion gallons.  The daily requirement of an individual is 1 gallon; meaning, human consumption of fresh water is estimated at 7 billion gallons on the assumption that the total world population is 7 billion.  Other consumption like industrial, business, household and other related applications are not yet included in the total daily consumption of 7 billion gallons.” (Antonio, 2014) 

The most visible sources of fresh water are rivers and lakes.  But this is not all because there is more than 20 times as much water stored within the ground as in all lakes and rivers combined.  More often, in many parts of the world, underground water had to be pumped out to meet the huge demand for water (domestic consumption, industrial and agricultural use).

There are many effects of underground water overuse and over pumping.  This article, however, will focus on only two: (1) the lowering of the water table, therefore reducing water supply; and, (2) land collapse in a process called subsidence (meaning: the gradual caving-in or sinking of an area of land).  In San Joaquin Valley, California, USA, an experiment was conducted and it resulted to the discovery that excessive pumping for irrigation led to nearly 30 feet of subsidence in the span of 50 years.

Global warming has gradually increase sea level due to melting polar caps.  With the sea level gradually increasing because of global warming and the ground level sinking because of subsidence, it should be a worrisome day when these two phenomena meet somewhere.  But before this event comes to pass, let us consider alternative measures towards water conservation… or we will surely experience the effects of underground water overuse.

Just my little thoughts…

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Antonio, A. C. (2014). “How Much Water Do We Have?”. Retrieved on June 15, 2015 from

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