The High Plains (also known as Ogallala) aquifer underlies more than 170,000 square miles of the United States. Aquifers are water storage areas that are made up of bodies of permeable rock that contain and transmit groundwater. The High Plains aquifer serves as the principal source of water for irrigation and drinking in the Great Plains, serving over two million people. However, substantial pumping of the aquifer for irrigation since the 1940s has resulted in large water-table declines.
Depleting aquifers of groundwater can lead to serious consequences as pumping water out of the ground faster than it can be replenished can permanently dry up wells, reduce water in lakes and streams, and deteriorate water quality.
Yet, since 2000, depletion of the High Plains aquifer appears to be continuing at a high rate, with no plans of slowing down. The depletion during the last 8 years of record (2001—2008, inclusive) is about 32 percent of the cumulative depletion in this aquifer during the entire 20th century.
The High Plains aquifer depletion is just one example in a new U.S. Geological Survey study that reveals most of the Nation’s aquifers are being depleted at an accelerating rate.
“Groundwater is one of the Nation’s most important natural resources. It provides drinking water in both rural and urban communities. It supports irrigation and industry, sustains the flow of streams and rivers, and maintains ecosystems,” said Suzette Kimball, acting USGS Director. “Because groundwater systems typically respond slowly to human actions, a long-term perspective is vital to manage this valuable resource in sustainable ways.”
The study reports that from 1900 to 2008, the Nation’s aquifers, decreased by more than twice the volume of water found in Lake Erie. Also, groundwater depletion in the U.S. in the years 2000-2008 can explain more than 2 percent of the observed global sea-level rise during that period.
While the rate of groundwater depletion across the country has increased markedly since about 1950, the maximum rates have occurred during the most recent period of the study (2000—2008), when the depletion rate averaged almost 25 cubic kilometers per year. For comparison, 9.2 cubic kilometers per year is the historical average calculated over the 1900—2008 timespan of the study.
From ‘Forbes’ : So you got your new compact fluorescent lightbulbs. Now you’re wringing your hands over how to dispose of them so that you don’t unleash toxic mercury into the environment. An improvement? Or just another example of politicians and environmentalists trying to push us around?
The United States, uses 410 billion gallons of water every day, according to the U.S. Geological Survey. Think of all the energy expended in pumping that water, treating it, spraying it on crops, heating it for your shower, making it into ice, Coca-Cola, paper, and on and on. These core uses (what they refer to as direct water and steam services in the commercial, residential, industrial and power sectors) eat up 12.3 quadrillion BTU per year. That’s 12.6% of primary energy use in the United States, or the equivalent energy consumption of 40 million Americans.
Add in indirect water use, such as steam generated in coal-fired power plants to spin turbines to make electricity, and you tack on another 34.1 quadrillion BTU.
Together, the amount of energy tied to water consumption totals just under half of all the energy this country uses. So the connection is clear: cut down on water use and you cut down on energy use.
Where to focus? Well the breakdown of who uses how much water in what ways is kind of surprising. Residential use was just 7.2% and commercial use is 3.4%. The researchers found that for residential users heating water (showers, clothes washers, cooking, hot tubs, etc) accounted for 75% of water-related energy use. But because the residential share of the pie is relatively small, what we as individuals do doesn’t matter that much in the scheme of things.
Much bigger impacts? Irrigation of crops and golf courses and other landscaping takes up 31.2% of water consumption. While the biggest user is power generation, with 49% of all water use.
Getting all that water to fields can be expensive. In California, for instance, the energy cost of piping water between basins amounts to roughly 13,000 kwh per million gallons.
And consider the electricity that needs to be generated to move and heat all that water. Based on the efficiency rates of industrial boilers and power plants, the researchers figured that 58% of the total primary energy consumed for water-related purposes is “rejected” or lost as waste heat. Indeed, on the tiny residential scale think about how much energy is wasted when you heat up a whole kettle of water to make just one cup of tea. Expand that idea to the industrial scale and it’s easy to see how much energy is wasted in our aqua-economy.
A series of strong earthquakes struck the city of Christchurch on Friday, rattling buildings, sending goods tumbling from shelves and prompting terrified holiday shoppers to flee into the streets. There was no tsunami alert issued and the city appeared to have been spared major damage.
One person was injured at a city mall and was taken to a hospital, and four people had to be rescued after being trapped by a rock fall, Christchurch police said in a statement. But there were no immediate reports of serious injuries or widespread damage in the city, which is still recovering from a devastating February earthquake that killed 182 people and destroyed much of the downtown area.
The first 5.8-magnitude quake struck Friday afternoon, 16 miles (26 kilometers) north of Christchurch and 2.5 miles (4 kilometers) deep, the U.S. Geological Survey said. Minutes later, a 5.3-magnitude aftershock hit. About an hour after that, the city was shaken by another 5.8-magnitude temblor, the U.S.G.S. said, though New Zealand’s geological agency GNS Science recorded that aftershock as a magnitude-6.0. Both aftershocks were less than 3 miles (5 kilometers) deep.
The city’s airport was evacuated after the first quake and all city malls shut down as a precaution.
About 60 people were treated for minor injuries, including fractures, injuries sustained in falls and people with “emotional difficulties,” Christchurch St. John Ambulance operations manager Tony Dowell told The Associated Press.
“We have had no significant injuries reported as a result of the earthquakes today,” he said.
Warwick Isaacs, demolitions manager for the Canterbury Earthquake Recovery Authority, said most buildings had been evacuated “as an emergency measure.” The area has recorded more than 7,000 earthquakes since a magnitude-7.0 quake rocked the city on Sept. 4, 2010. That quake did not cause any deaths.
Rock falls had occurred in one area and there was liquefaction — when an earthquake forces underground water up through loose soil — in several places, Isaacs told New Zealand’s National Radio.
“There has been quite a lot of stuff falling out of cupboards, off shelves in shops and that sort of thing, again,” he said.
Isaacs said his immediate concern was for demolition workers involved in tearing down buildings wrecked in previous quakes.
“It … started slow then really got going. It was a big swaying one but not as jolting or as violent as in February,” Christchurch resident Rita Langley said. “Everyone seems fairly chilled, though the traffic buildup sounds like a beehive that has just been kicked as everyone leaves (the) town (center).”
The shaking was severe in the nearby port town of Lyttelton, the epicenter of the Feb. 22 quake.
“We stayed inside until the shaking stopped. Then most people went out into the street outside,” resident Andrew Turner said. “People are emotionally shocked by what happened this afternoon.”
Around 26,000 homes were without power in Christchurch, after the shaking tripped switches that cut supplies, Orion energy company CEO Rob Jamieson said.
“We don’t seem to have damage to our equipment,” he said. “We hope to have power back on to those customers by nightfall.”
Hundreds of miles of sewer and fresh water lines have been repaired in the city since the February quake.
One partly demolished building and a vacant house collapsed after Friday’s quakes, police said.
Central City Business Association manager Paul Lonsdale said the quakes came at the worst possible time for retailers, with people rushing to finish their Christmas shopping.
Despite the sizable quakes, there was no visible damage in the central business district, where 28 stores have reopened in shipping containers after their buildings were wrecked by the February quake, he said.
“Hopefully tomorrow we’ll be feeling a little bit better again and restoring our faith in the will to live and to stay in Christchurch,” the city’s deputy mayor, Ngaire Button, told National Radio.
There are thousands of earthquakes around the world each year, but only a few cause serious damage.
Earthquakes are measured in magnitude, on a scale ranging from micro to great. A magnitude of 6.0 and above is classified as strong and can cause severe damage, like the Christchurch earthquake in New Zealand.The largest earthquake in recent years was in Sumatra in 2004. It measured 9.3 and triggered the devastating Asian tsunami.
The figures above seek to measure an earthquake in terms of the energy it releases.
The scale used to measure earthquakes is unusual. For example, the difference in strength between an earthquake of magnitude 5 and magnitude 6 earthquake is much more dramatic than a rise of just one unit would suggest.
In fact, a magnitude 6 earthquake possesses 32 times more energy than a magnitude 5 quake, as seismologists use a logarithmic scale to record these natural disasters.
This means that a gap of two steps, from 5 to 7, represents an earthquake nearly 1,000 times stronger.
Quakes likely to cause the most destruction measure 7.0 and above.
The 2004 earthquake which triggered the Asian tsunami was the third biggest quake since 1900. It measured 9.3.
There are an estimated 20 major quakes in the world every year according to the US Geological Survey.
The 2010 Haiti quake measured 7.0 and because the epicentre was so close to the ill-prepared capital, Port-au-Prince, the damage was severe, and over 200,000 people died as a result.
The death toll in Haiti is in stark contrast to the magnitude 8.8 earthquake that struck Chile in February 2010 where less than 1,000 people died.
Chile has a long history of strong earthquakes. The largest recorded earthquake took place there in 1960. It measured 9.5 and was also followed by tsunamis.
About 1,655 people were killed – it’s thought the casualties were comparatively light because there were a number of warning shocks that sent people running out of their homes before the main quake.
A massive earthquake has hit the north-east of Japan, triggering a tsunami that has caused extensive damage.
Japanese television showed cars, ships and even buildings being swept away by a vast wall of water after the 8.9-magnitude earthquake.
The quake has sparked fires in several areas including Tokyo, with at least 15 people reported dead.
It struck about 250 miles (400km) from the capital at a depth of 20 miles. There have been powerful aftershocks.
The tremor hit at 1446 local time (0546 GMT). Seismologists say it is one of the largest earthquakes to hit Japan for many years.
A tsunami warning was extended across the Pacific to include the Philippines, Indonesia, Taiwan, Hawaii, the Pacific coast of Russia and North and South America.
Strong waves hit Japan’s Miyagi and Fukushima prefectures, officials said, damaging dozens of coastal communities. Kyodo news agency said a 10-metre wave (33ft) struck the port of Sendai in Miyagi prefecture.
Japan’s NHK television showed a massive surge of debris-filled water sweeping away buildings, cars and ships and reaching far inland.
Motorists could be seen trying to speed away from the wall of water.
Farmland around Sendai was submerged and the waves pushed cars across the runway of the city’s airport.
Kyodo said at least 15 people had been killed in the earthquake and tsunami. It was believed the death toll could rise significantly.
26 Dec 2004, Sumatra, Indonesia: 9.1 quake and tsunami kills 227,898 across Pacific region