Millions of Drinking Wells Worldwide Could Run Dry

Over-pumping, drought, and climate change are all factors depleting global groundwater resources. Up to 20 percent of the world’s drinking wells might be encountering impending doom. Without clean, fresh drinking wells, billions of people could be in a water crisis.

According to research published in the journal Science, construction records from 39 million wells scattered across 40 countries were analyzed. The depths were examined and compared to groundwater levels, supported by data from previous studies.

Debra Perrone, a water resources expert at the University of California, Santa Barbara, co-authored the study and said, “We found that this undesirable result is happening across the world, from the western United States to India.”

The researchers found that millions of wells reached less than 16 feet below the water table, putting them susceptible to running dry. At least six to 20 percent of the wells evaluated appear to be in peril. Especially in places already afflicted by drought, the remaining wells can dry up quickly, perhaps up to a meter or more a year. 

To help address the problem, digging deeper wells is a temporary solution, but these wells are much more expensive to build and maintain. 

The study said, “As groundwater levels decline around the world, only the relatively wealthy will be able to afford the cost of drilling deeper wells and paying for the additional power required to pump groundwater from greater depths. Lower-income families, poorer communities, and small businesses, including smaller farms, will experience progressively more limited access in the many regions around the world where groundwater levels are in decline. The consequences of millions of wells running dry, and perhaps millions more in the decades to come, would be severe and unparalleled at such a scale in human history.”

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Written by the digital marketing staff at Creative Programs & Systems: