‘This is an eye-opener’: Changes in global water supply hint at future conflicts and crises

 Dry, cracked Earth that used to be under Lake Mead, the largest reservoir in the United States, illustrates how water resources are shifting due to climate change and human activity. A new analysis using satellite data has identified more than 30 regions on Earth where the amount of stored water on the landscape has increased or decreased by an amount greater than the 32 billion ton storage capacity of Lake Mead.  JUSTIN SULLIVAN/GETTY IMAGES

Dry, cracked Earth that used to be under Lake Mead, the largest reservoir in the United States, illustrates how water resources are shifting due to climate change and human activity. A new analysis using satellite data has identified more than 30 regions on Earth where the amount of stored water on the landscape has increased or decreased by an amount greater than the 32 billion ton storage capacity of Lake Mead.

JUSTIN SULLIVAN/GETTY IMAGES

"“This is an eye-opener,” said Roy Brouwer, an economist and executive director of the University of Waterloo’s Water Institute who was not involved in the analysis. “It raises awareness that things are changing and that in some areas something has to happen to counter and anticipate some of the catastrophes that may be waiting for us in the not-so-far future.”

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Researchers have published many results based on GRACE data but the new analysis, published Wednesday in the journal Nature, marks the first time all available observations from the mission, from April, 2002, to March, 2016, have been analyzed and assembled to provide a comprehensive map of water trends around the world. Those trends encompass changes in where water is stored across Earth’s surface, including groundwater, soil moisture, glaciers, snow cover and surface water. The result suggests a water landscape that is changing fast on a global scale, in large part due to human activity and climate change."