Article courtesy of Michelle Nijhuis | December 16, 2014 | Popular Science | Shared as educational material
For the third year in a row, California has suffered severe drought. Reservoirs hit all-time lows, wildfires raced through dry forests, and some towns ran out of water.
On September 16, 2014, California Governor Jerry Brown signed three bills designed to strengthen groundwater regulation. While they don’t require sustainable withdrawals for two decades, they do call for a more precise accounting of the underground resource. “Right now, we don’t even know how much money is in the bank,” says hydrologist Jay Famiglietti, of the University of California at Irvine. “We just know the balance is getting lower and lower.”
New techniques for measuring water near and on the surface will add resolution to that picture in 2015. Researchers from the Scripps Institution of Oceanography found that tiny uplifts in the Earth’s crust reveal the amount of water lost throughout the West. Another team, led by the University of Colorado at Boulder, developed a way to use GPS instruments to gauge soil moisture and snow depth.
Knowing how much water states have to work with won’t put them in the clear. Climate change inevitably leads to more drought. But data will awaken Westerners to the crisis at hand—and point the way toward mitigating it.