The case of the extra water

Over the past forty years or so (1961-2003), global sea levels have risen an average of .07″ per year.  Global warming is largely the culprit here, but scientist have struggled to truly make that hypothesis work.  You see, when you account for global warming’s effects on the oceans  (slightly lower density at higher temperatures, and melting ice), the numbers don’t add up…that only accounts for about .04″ of the .07″ per year rise.  Where’s the rest coming from?  Scientists in Tokyo believe the answer is all around us.  Or rather, it IS us…the extra water in the oceans is due to extraction of water from underground aquifers over the past many decades, which is not being replenished at the same rate.

So why does this matter?  Look, the aquifer levels are decreasing (in many areas at least). Forget the ocean for a minute, our lifestyles are not sustainable like this and it’s immoral to pass this problem on to future generations, not when we see it happening around us and have the technology to fix it.

Based on current sea ice melting trends, sea levels are expected to rise 3-5 FEET by 2100.  Living a sustainable lifestyle with water usage can help with that, though we really need to be addressing global warming as well.


Fracking, and water contamination

There’s been all sort of discussion lately about fracking (hydraulic fracturing of shale rock) to access natural gas that was previously thought to be inaccessible. The concern has been over the fluids used in the fracking process, what little we know about them indicates they are toxic and not something we want in our groundwater (the actual ingredients are considered trade secrets and not typically disclosed, though Colorado recently enacted a law to change that). Evidence has shown these fluids can turn up in groundwater. On the other side of the debate though, the industry disputes that claim and says that fracking is safe, that the fluids can’t go from the shale layers to the aquifers. Which side to believe? An article in Scientific American indicates that both sides may be right, depending on your point of view. It’s an interesting and short read and I encourage you to read it in full, but the gist of it is that yes, fracking doesn’t contaminate the water, but the wells that carry the fluids to and from the fracking layers CAN. Cracks in the cement casings of those wells can allow the fracking fluid to escape into the aquifers that the wells pass through to get to the fracking layers. More to the point, this concern would apply to virtually any time of natural gas extraction, not just fracking. So, it’s a bit worse than originally feared! Read more about it here.

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