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NASA alert: Middle East loses freshwater reserves size of Dead Sea in 7 years

 
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02/13/2013 05:50 PM
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NASA alert: Middle East loses freshwater reserves size of Dead Sea in 7 years
The Middle East is headed towards a water shortage crisis, as NASA satellites show that reserves the size of the Dead Sea have been depleted in just seven years, largely due to well-drilling.

Newly-obtained results show that 144 cubic kilometres of freshwater – a volume nearly equivalent to that of the Dead Sea or Lake Tahoe – had been removed from the ground in the area that encompasses Turkey, Iran, Iraq and Syria between 2003 and 2009.

"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," said Jay Famiglietti, the UC Irvine professor who led the team who made the findings, which are due to be published on Friday in Water Resources Reasearch magazine.

While 40 percent of the decline is in the soil and surface water, the decrease in groundwater, caused by human actions, is responsible for 90 cubic kilometers of the shortfall.

"Satellite data shows 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," said Famiglietti.

The study was made possible by the US space agency’s Gravity Recovery and Climate Experiment (GRACE) satellites. The two identical vessels measure miniscule changes in the planet’s gravity through the variations in distance between them as they circle the Earth, their positions influenced by the varying mass of the water reserves.

The research team said the depletion was caused by poor water management, combined with unfavorable climate conditions.

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