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08.10.2019 |

Unsustainable groundwater pumping threatens aquatic ecosystems

Groundwater is often used for irrigation (Photo: CC0)

Excessive groundwater pumping, especially in intensively irrigated regions, is posing a threat to aquatic ecosystems worldwide, new research shows. According to a study published in the journal “Nature”, the water level of rivers and streams in many catchment areas where groundwater is pumped has already decreased and has become too low to sustain freshwater ecosystems. Rising water temperatures are threatening organisms living underwater, such as fish, plankton and water plants. The international team of researchers from Utrecht University, the water institute Deltares, the University of Freiburg (Germany) and the University of Victoria (Canada) used a global hydrological model to calculate the inflow of groundwater to the world’s network of streams and rivers around the world. “If we continue to pump as much groundwater in the coming decades as we have done so far, a critical point will be reached also for regions in southern and central Europe, such as Portugal, Spain and Italy, as well as in North African countries,” says hydrologist Dr. Inge de Graaf from the University of Freiburg. Also at risk are areas where groundwater supplies have remained relatively constant but rivers are no longer able to maintain healthy ecosystems. [+] more ...

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