Over-Stressed Arabian Aquifer – Beyond Repair?

aquifers

More terrible news from/for the Arabian Peninsula: The Arabian Aquifer System is the most over-stressed groundwater system in the world.

Using data gathered by NASA’s Gravity Recovery and Climate Experiment satellites, two new studies by the University of California, Irvine, came to conclude that 21 of the largest 37 aquifers on earth studied have exceeded their sustainability “tipping points,” meaning they lose more water every year than is being naturally replenished through processes like rainfall or snow melt. Of those 37, the Arabian Aquifer System was crowned to be the world’s most over-stressed. The terrible part of the news is: this aquifer supplies water for more than 60 million people; along with their livestock, agriculture, and aquatic wildlife.

iraq-drought

A closer look at its geographic extent, the aquifer lies beneath all of Saudi Arabia’s western and central provinces; most of the United Arab Emirates; all of Kuwait; all of the southern regions of Iraq and all the way to the eastern Syrian desert; most of Jordan; and most of northern Yemen. Mish-mash the droughts with outrageous political instability washing the region inside-out, and you’ve got a recipe for apocalypse.

oildonkey

Sadly, the health of this particular aquifer has been abused throughout the 20th century since the first nodding donkey commenced its business in the Peninsula. With next-to-zero environmental policy and enforcement, the region’s groundwater, surficial water bodies, and the lithology in-between have been poisoned by the almost-century-long oil & gas industrial operations; let alone the countless -unreported- spills. I can imagine the horrendous lab results of a random groundwater sample in terms of potability parameters, total petroleum hydrocarbons, total dissolved solids, and/or attenuated levels of nutrients. Now, with the aquifer’s existence is threatened, any plans for effective remediation seem to be far-fetched, if not impossible.

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