Groundwater tables have fallen precipitously, 600 feet below the ground in some places, requiring even more powerful pumps to bring water to the surface. Over-consumption has taxed the power grid, constraining the electricity available for others. Many countries that rely on farming are unstable because because of the relationship between energy and groundwater.
A man irrigates his field with an electric water pump east of Gauhati, in northern India. Excessive water pumping has strained both water and energy supplies in India, China and other hot spots around the world.
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Source: The National Geographic
Rituparna Ganguly, Research Assistant at VERTICES, email@example.com
The American Society of Civil Engineers has recently reported on the condition of the United States’ community-based-drinking-water systems and public wastewater treatment facilities. Unless the systems are improved and modernized serious problems could arise in future years. The drinking-water systems are aging and rusting while the wastewater treatment facilities fail so often that 900 billion gallons of untreated sewage are discharged each year.
It is estimated by the EPA that to modernize the county’s water systems would cost $91 billion, but only $35 million is available. Not only does this pose a public health and environmental concern but also an economic problem. Thousands of jobs are directly related to the availability and quality of water such as wineries and chemical plants. Because water service infrastructure is located below ground it is easy to not notice the deterioration. But when the systems break it also causes huge damage to roadways and other public infrastructure.
A possible solution? Put public municipal infrastructure in the hands of private companies who often can borrow money for repairs at more favorable interest rates than local or state governments.
Barringer, Felicity. “Oh Danny Boy, the Pipes, the Pipes Are Failing”. The New York Times. 20 December, 2011.
Hydraulic rock fracturing has gained much popularity with natural gas drilling companies over the past decade or so, because it can increase production of wells. Natural gas is abundantly found in Marcellus Shale which reaches from Virginia to mid New York state. In an effort to extract as much gas as possible, drilling companies are fracturing the shale with a large amount of water and a mixture of chemicals which they pump into the earth, a process called hydrofracking. The problem with this method, which is well documented by the EPA, is that many of the chemicals used are toxic to humans and the environment. Drilling requires upwards of 12,000 gallons of chemicals mixed with over a million gallons of water to be pumped into the ground, much of which will stay there and possibly seep into the ground water supply. Some of used chemical mixture is re-collected and sent to treatment plants, but it is documented that some of the plants are not capable of removing toxins before discharging the water into a river. This is becoming a big problem in areas such as Pennsylvania, where the number of wells has just about doubled since 2000, from 36,000 to 71,000. The New York Times produced an informative interactive map of water contamination in Pennsylvania due to hydrofracking. Many of the chemicals used in this process have significant health effects upon people who come in contact with them, which should be a big concern because of many wells (at least 116) have produced waste water containing levels of radioactive material over a hundred times the levels set by federal drinking-water standards.
Scott Jablonski, VERTICES Intern