Satellite Data Show How California Breathes Water

Posted: Aug 15 2018, 1:57am CDT | by , Updated: Aug 15 2018, 2:09am CDT , in Latest Science News


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Satellite Data Show How California Breathes Water
Credit: Bryan Riel and Mark Simons

New study provides a more comprehensive picture of the California's groundwater supplies

Using satellite radar images, researchers have revealed the effects of intensive groundwater pumping on California’s surface throughout the year. The dramatic animation shows that the ground in California rises and falls as water is pumped in and out of its underground aquifers.

"What we see through the rising and falling of the ground surface is the elastic response of the land to regular changes in groundwater level," said lead author Bryan Riel from California Institute of Technology (Caltech). “Because we have data over a long period of time, we were also able to isolate long-term surface deformation signals, including subsidence of the land that seems to be caused by compaction of clay layers in response to background variations in groundwater withdrawal."

Millions of people worldwide depend on water from underground aquifers to fulfill their basic needs. However, the over-pumping of groundwater has disrupted many aquifers’ storage capacity in recent years.

For decades, the excessive pumping of groundwater combined with droughts has also caused ground beneath Southern California to sink and damaged infrastructure. The groundwater levels in California have been continually monitored by satellites which provide a comprehensive picture of the state of its groundwater resources.

The latest study utilizes publicly available radar data and images captured between 1992 and 2011 by European Space Agency satellites. When all of the images were stitched together, they showed the ground beneath Southern California rising and falling periodically, like someone breathing in and out.

"With that kind of data, we'll be able to paint an even clearer picture that could reveal even more about the ground beneath our feet," said Caltech's Mark Simons. “At the beginning of the study period, we see big sinusoids – higher highs and lower lows. Toward the later half of the study, that flattens out a bit, indicating that water control districts were more actively managing aquifers, and making sure to put water back into them instead of just taking it out.”

Over-pumping has long-term effects on groundwater supplies and it creates major challenges for groundwater management. Researchers suggest that groundwater managers need to avoid permanent lowering of the ground level to keep aquifers healthy.

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<a href="/latest_stories/all/all/47" rel="author">Hira Bashir</a>
The latest discoveries in science are the passion of Hira Bashir (). With years of experience, she is able to spot the most interesting new achievements of scientists around the world and cover them in easy to understand reporting.




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