Saturday, March 09, 2013

Mesopotamia Running Dry?

We've known the Euphrates has been flowing below late 20th-century levels for about a decade now, but apparently it afflicts the entire Tigris-Euphrates valley:
(T)he Tigris-Euphrates—which flows through the so-called fertile crescent that gave birth to agriculture itself—is getting drier. According to a study in Water Resources Research, an American scientific journal, between 2003 and 2009 the region that stretches from eastern Turkey to western Iran lost 144 cubic kilometres of fresh water...
The main reason for the depletion turns out to be that more water is being taken out of the underground aquifer, mainly by farmers. The rate of loss accelerated after drought hit the region in 2007. Between 2007 and 2009, in response to reduced flows of water in the rivers, Iraq’s government dug 1,000 new wells and abstracted four-fifths of all its groundwater reserves. The aquifer is not being replenished at anything like that rate, so this cannot continue for long.
In other words, the initial decline in river water is now leading to aquifer depletion, which only makes the trends worse.

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