03/21/2013 14:50

            Many people of the world depend on water in lakes and rivers that they can see – clearly visible when water levels are low.  Many others depend on groundwater in aquifers that are out of sight – not so apparent when water levels are low. “Nobody knows how much water is buried beneath our feet. But we do know that the reserves are being emptied,” Fred Pearce, a journalist and author on environmental science reports in National Geographic News noting  information in the journal Water Resources Research 2012.

            “Globally, the shortfall is about 60 cubic miles per year – more than three times the rate half a century ago.” 60 cubic miles is equal to 120 billion gallons, an amount that would fill approximately 3.2 million Olympic-size swimming pools.

            Globally farming takes two-thirds of all the water we grab from nature and much more in the driest regions. Pearce reports that, “for more than half a century now the, farmers in the United States have been pumping out one of the world’s greatest underwater reserves, the Ogallala aquifer, which stretches beneath High Plains from Texas to South Dakota.”  Using the groundwater of the Ogallala aquifer has been a huge success. “In a good year the High Plains has produced three-quarters of the wheat traded on international markets.”

            We and our fellow travelers on planet earth all need farmers around the world to grow crops; and crops depend on water. Scientists are working on new varieties of crops that need much less water to grow. Because water is cheap, common methods allow for wasteful evaporation; technologists are coming up with much less wasteful ways to irrigate..     

            Where we live in rural areas of Illinois, groundwater from various aquifers is the source of our irrigation water, our drinking water, and for all of our daily water uses. Readers of this column most likely are practicing ways they know to conserve water in their daily lives. Out of our sight is the water used to produce almost every product we purchase as consumers – from food to cars – that suggests other ways we might conserve water that is out of our sight. Become informed by searching ‘hidden water we use’ on the Internet.

            “An international day to celebrate freshwater was recommended at the United Nations Conference on Environment and Development (UNCED) held in Rio, Brazil in 1992. The United Nations General Assembly responded by designating 22 March 1993 as the first World Water

Day and it has been held annually since then. Each year, World Water Day highlights a specific aspect of freshwater and is coordinated by a Member of UN-Water. In 2013 the theme of the World Water Day is Water Cooperation, in reflection of the declaration of 2013 as the International Year of Water Cooperation.” Information at www.unwater.org


Della Moen, Earth Team Volunteer, NRCS/Stephenson Soil and Water Conservation District, an equal opportunity provider and employer, 03/13/13 (for publication on 031613 in the Journal-Standard, Freeport, Illinois). Della can be reached at info@stephensonswcd.org