As water shortages continue to hurt people around the world, NASA has released some findings that link global water supply issues with human activity.
The Problem With The Current Global Freshwater Supply
NASA has mapped out the specific locations in the world where the freshwater situations have been altered by humans. Some wetland areas are getting wetter, and some dry areas are getting drier from groundwater depletion. This represents a major shift in water distribution.
Scientists located 19 hotspots from 34 regions in the world with the most dramatic water changes. Among those hotspots, 14 of them can be attributed directly to human activity. Some of the most vulnerable areas include Southern California, Australia, the Middle East, Northern Africa, Northern India, and Southern Russia.
"The resulting map is mind-blowing, and has staggering implications for water, food, and human security that we are just not aware of or prepared for," said study coauthor and scientist Jay Famiglietti.
The Caspian Sea has been experiencing freshwater declines for many years. Scientists once attributed the problem to natural causes, but the report from NASA suggests that it was actually caused by humans extracting too much water from it.
The biggest hotspot in the report was by the Tigris and Euphrates rivers, which has seen water depletion due to the construction of 22 dams.
"We know for sure that some of these impacts are caused by climate change," said lead author and scientist Matt Rodell.
How Did Researchers Identify The Areas That Have Experienced The Most Changes?
In order to locate the hotspots, researchers analyzed data of harmful human activities and correlated it with images from NASA satellites. They relied heavily on 14 years of images from the Gravity Recovery and Climate Experiment (GRACE) mission. Climate data from the Global Precipitation Climatology Project was also incorporated into the research.
"This is the first time that we've used observations from multiple satellites in a thorough assessment of how freshwater availability is changing, everywhere on Earth," said Rodell.
What Dilemmas Could Be Attributed To This Study By NASA?
Although the findings from NASA are significant, there are some concerns. The satellite observations could not reveal all the causes for the changes. Some of the freshwater data is not necessarily attributed to human activities. There are also natural causes, such as rainfall changes, that could have played an impact at some of the hotspots.
The scientists also suggested that their data should serve as a warning to governments to take action before the problem gets worse.