Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

The downstream consequences of depleting groundwater

12.06.2012
Hard lessons from around the American West and Australia could help improve groundwater management and protect ecosystems in California, Stanford University researchers find.

The Water in the West program at Stanford Woods Institute for the Environment is focusing attention on how groundwater pumping can threaten rivers and ecosystems and, conversely, how creative groundwater management can be a savior during drought.

The program recently released the report, "Instituting Integration," that explores the ways that various American and Australian states and water districts manage and regulate connections between groundwater and surface waters and ecosystems such as rivers, streams, springs and wetlands.

"In many places, over-pumping of groundwater reduces surface-water flows," said report author Rebecca Nelson. "Failing to recognize and address these fundamental connections can place other water users like farmers and cities at risk and can harm fisheries or wetland habitats of migratory waterfowl."

Many jurisdictions manage and regulate surfacewater and groundwater without any recognition of the connections. For instance, California has no legal framework for comprehensively managing the impacts of groundwater pumping. Across most of California, well owners can pump as much as they like with little accountability for the impacts on rivers, other water users and ecosystems. In contrast, other states around the West have developed laws and policies for controlling the impacts of wells on rivers. Australia has gone even further, considering how ecosystems of all kinds are affected by groundwater pumping.

"We have only recently developed the science necessary to understand the extent of this problem," Nelson said. "Now we need to move on to thinking about the law and policy tools we need to deal with this issue. On that score, California is at the rear of the pack."

Stanford researchers have been learning from states throughout the western U.S. and Australia that are dealing with common issues of water scarcity, increasing competition for water, greater reliance on groundwater and fragile ecosystems. Hard lessons have produced a range of creative policy tools to ensure that wells do not inadvertently deplete stream-flow, or damage connected ecosystems, while minimizing economic disruption to those who often rely on groundwater during droughts.

Some western states, which face stressed basins and drying rivers, cap groundwater pumping in high-use areas. New wells are permitted when well owners are able to offset their pumping by conserving water or buying and retiring other water rights. Across the Pacific, a decade-long drought ravaged many river ecosystems in Australia but until recently, little attention was paid to the importance of groundwater to those systems. Now, Australian scientists are preparing to release the country's first national map of groundwater-dependent ecosystems. The map will help decision makers when they consider applications for new wells and formulate new water plans designed to protect these ecosystems into the future.

The Stanford Woods Institute's Water in the West program is collaborating with the University of Sydney's United States Studies Centre to gather groundwater experts from around the western United States and Australia for a workshop later this month focused on promising groundwater policy solutions to common challenges and the wisdom of hard groundwater management lessons.

Related Information:

"Instituting Integration" http://www.stanford.edu/group/waterinthewest/cgi-bin/web/sites/default/files/PolicyMakersBrief&WorkingPaper_RNelson.pdf

Comment: Rob Jordan, Stanford Woods Institute for the Environment: cell (650) 721-1881, rjordan@stanford.edu

Mark Shwartz | EurekAlert!
Further information:
http://www.stanford.edu

More articles from Earth Sciences:

nachricht Massive impact crater from a kilometer-wide iron meteorite discovered in Greenland
15.11.2018 | Faculty of Science - University of Copenhagen

nachricht The unintended consequences of dams and reservoirs
14.11.2018 | Uppsala University

All articles from Earth Sciences >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: UNH scientists help provide first-ever views of elusive energy explosion

Researchers at the University of New Hampshire have captured a difficult-to-view singular event involving "magnetic reconnection"--the process by which sparse particles and energy around Earth collide producing a quick but mighty explosion--in the Earth's magnetotail, the magnetic environment that trails behind the planet.

Magnetic reconnection has remained a bit of a mystery to scientists. They know it exists and have documented the effects that the energy explosions can...

Im Focus: A Chip with Blood Vessels

Biochips have been developed at TU Wien (Vienna), on which tissue can be produced and examined. This allows supplying the tissue with different substances in a very controlled way.

Cultivating human cells in the Petri dish is not a big challenge today. Producing artificial tissue, however, permeated by fine blood vessels, is a much more...

Im Focus: A Leap Into Quantum Technology

Faster and secure data communication: This is the goal of a new joint project involving physicists from the University of Würzburg. The German Federal Ministry of Education and Research funds the project with 14.8 million euro.

In our digital world data security and secure communication are becoming more and more important. Quantum communication is a promising approach to achieve...

Im Focus: Research icebreaker Polarstern begins the Antarctic season

What does it look like below the ice shelf of the calved massive iceberg A68?

On Saturday, 10 November 2018, the research icebreaker Polarstern will leave its homeport of Bremerhaven, bound for Cape Town, South Africa.

Im Focus: Penn engineers develop ultrathin, ultralight 'nanocardboard'

When choosing materials to make something, trade-offs need to be made between a host of properties, such as thickness, stiffness and weight. Depending on the application in question, finding just the right balance is the difference between success and failure

Now, a team of Penn Engineers has demonstrated a new material they call "nanocardboard," an ultrathin equivalent of corrugated paper cardboard. A square...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

VideoLinks
Industry & Economy
Event News

“3rd Conference on Laser Polishing – LaP 2018” Attracts International Experts and Users

09.11.2018 | Event News

On the brain’s ability to find the right direction

06.11.2018 | Event News

European Space Talks: Weltraumschrott – eine Gefahr für die Gesellschaft?

23.10.2018 | Event News

 
Latest News

Purdue cancer identity technology makes it easier to find a tumor's 'address'

16.11.2018 | Health and Medicine

Good preparation is half the digestion

16.11.2018 | Life Sciences

Microscope measures muscle weakness

16.11.2018 | Life Sciences

VideoLinks
Science & Research
Overview of more VideoLinks >>>