Water shortages are likely to be the key environmental challenge of this century, scientists from NASA have warned, as new data has revealed a drying-out of swaths of the globe between the tropics and the high latitudes, with 19 hotspots where water depletion has been dramatic.
Areas in northern and eastern India, the Middle East, California and Australia are among the hotspots where overuse of water resources has caused a serious decline in the availability of freshwater that is already causing problems. Without strong action by governments to preserve water the situation in these areas is likely to worsen.
Some of these hotspots were previously undocumented or poorly understood: a region in north-western China, in Xinjiang province, has suffered dramatic declines despite receiving normal amounts of rainfall, owing to groundwater depletion from industry and irrigation.
NASA has identified more than 30 hotspots where freshwater is in particular danger
The Caspian Sea was also found to be showing strong declines owing to similar forces, which is resulting in a shrinking shoreline. Previously, this change had been attributed to natural variability, but the new report demonstrates it was caused in large part by the diversion and extraction of water from rivers that feed it, for agriculture and industry. This depletion mirrors the well-known fate of the disappearing Aral Sea in […]