NASA’s imaging technology recently brought some bad news about Mideast air pollution. Now NASA brings more bad news about the Mideast water supply. We already knew that the Dead Sea is shrinking. Some people are even trying to do something about it. But the Dead sea is– dead, its water is too salty for our energy guzzling desalinization plants. So it isn’t practical for human consumption or irrigation. But what if by some miracle the Mideast had access to a body of fresh water the size of the Dead Sea?
Well, it turns out that Turkey, Syria, Iran and Iraq already have access to such an enormous fresh water supply. What has happened to it? Unfortunately, over the course seven years, an amount of fresh water that would fill the Dead Sea has disappeared from this part of the Mideast. So says a NASA study which tracked Mideast ground water levels via satellite.
NASA’s Gravity Recovery and Climate Experiment (GRACE) mission was launched in 2002. It is essentially a highly accurate weighing scale in the sky which can weigh the amount of water beneath the earth’s surface by measuring tiny variations in the Earth’s gravity.
This study showed that the underground water available in the Tigris-Euphrates river valley shrank by an average of 20 cubic kilometers every year. The majority of this loss was caused by human activities.
“GRACE data show an alarming rate of decrease in total water storage in the Tigris and Euphrates river basins, which currently have the second fastest rate of groundwater storage loss on Earth, after India,” Jay Famiglietti, principal investigator of the study and a hydrologist and professor at UC Irvine, said.
“The rate was especially striking after the 2007 drought. Meanwhile, demand for freshwater continues to rise, and the region does not coordinate its water management because of different interpretations of international laws.”
GRACE,” he added, “Is the only way we can estimate groundwater storage changes from space right now.
“That’s enough water to meet the needs of tens of millions to more than a hundred million people in the region each year, depending on regional water use standards and availability,” Famiglietti said.