"There are many reasons why groundwater is essential to health and the well-being of humanity and the environment. When people talk about climate change and impacts to water resources, they tend to focus on things like drought, flooding, drying up surface water bodies and melting glaciers. However, the potential for groundwater to be threatened or be a conduit for climate change impacts is also a concern.

An obvious concern is depletion of groundwater as it becomes an increasingly important water source. As precipitation becomes less reliable due to climate change, surface water bodies can drop too low to provide needed water, causing people to turn to groundwater sources. Over-pumping and depletion of groundwater is already a significant problem in many places across the Eastern Region. Over-pumping will increase as climate change makes traditional sources of water less reliable. Less obvious are ways in which groundwater may be a conduit of climate change impacts. For example, recent research based on modeling found the eastern United States is particularly vulnerable to increasing evapotranspiration, which decreases shallow water tables.

Evapotranspiration is a combination of evaporation and transpiration, which refers to the water that plants release to the air. While a permanent water table decrease of one to three feet may not mean anything for a water supply well, it can have severe consequences for surface water bodies and ecosystems dependent on that shallow water table.

Other research has shown that groundwater could lead to warmer surface water bodies, such as streams. Many cold-water streams in the region depend on groundwater to maintain their cold-water conditions, which are required by many organisms. This water originates as precipitation that infiltrates into the ground as recharge and eventually becomes groundwater discharge (baseflow) to water bodies. The research has found that warmer precipitation and recharge will eventually reach streams and rivers as warmer baseflow. This may take a few decades, which can make planning for these streams even more challenging."

Five takeaways from a recent New York Times investigation - 

  • Aquifer water levels are falling nationwide. The danger is worse and more widespread than many people realize.
  • We know this because we built a database of more than 80,000 wells nationwide.
  • Overpumping is a threat to America’s status as a food superpower.
  • It’s not just a problem in the West or for farmers. It’s a tap water crisis, too.
  • Weak regulations allowed the overuse. Now, climate change is leading to even more pumping.


All the text and the graphic is from the USDA Forest Service.


Pincushion America revisited: The legacy of fracking on our drinking water

By Kurt Cobb 09/24/23
Eleven years ago, I wrote about the how millions of holes drilled deep into American soil were already destined to pollute groundwater across the United States, making many areas uninhabitable to humans who rely on…
Read more

In Minnesota, thirsty crops put ground water levels at risk

By Cathy Wurzer and Alanna Elder 09/07/23
During the record-breaking drought of 2021, wells around the state went dry as farms drew six billion gallons more than their pumping permits allowed. One of the main culprits? The potato industry, which has an…
Read more

Big Farms and Flawless Fries Are Gulping Water in the Land of 10,000 Lakes

By Dionne Searcey and Mira Rojanasakul 09/03/23
THE DROUGHT THAT GRIPPED MINNESOTA in the summer of 2021 was one of the worst on record. Day after day a blazing sun shriveled leaves, dried up waterfalls and turned ponds to puddles.
Read more

Five Takeaways From Our Investigation Into America’s Groundwater Crisis

By Christopher Flavelle and Mira Rojanasakul 08/29/23
A New York Times investigation has found that America is depleting its invaluable reserves of groundwater at a dangerous rate. The practice of overpumping water from vast aquifers is already having consequences nationwide. The majority…
Read more

America Is Using Up Its Groundwater Like There’s No Tomorrow

By Mira Rojanasakul, Christopher Flavelle and Others 08/28/23
Global warming has focused concern on land and sky as soaring temperatures intensify hurricanes, droughts and wildfires. But another climate crisis is unfolding, underfoot and out of view. Many of the aquifers that supply 90…
Read more

Drift of Earth’s Pole Confirms Groundwater Depletion as a Significant Contributor to Global Sea Level Rise 1993–2010

By Ki-Weon Seo, Dongryeol Ryu and Others 06/15/23
Climate model estimates show significant groundwater depletion during the 20th century, consistent with global mean sea level (GMSL) budget analysis. However, prior to the Argo float era, in the early 2000’s, there is little information…
Read more

Arizona Limits Construction Around Phoenix as Its Water Supply Dwindles

By Christopher Flavelle and Jack Healy 06/01/23
Arizona has determined that there is not enough groundwater for all of the housing construction that has already been approved in the Phoenix area, and will stop developers from building some new subdivisions, a sign…
Read more

National Groundwater Awareness Week

An annual observance established in 1999 to highlight the responsible development, management, and use of groundwater, the event is also a platform to encourage yearly water well testing and well maintenance, and the promotion of…
Read more

There’s Something in the Water in Virginia. Before You Say ‘Yuck,’ Wait.

By Elena Shao 10/20/22
Virginia doesn’t have a megadrought like some parts of the United States, but it has water problems all the same: Homes and businesses in the Hampton Roads region, in the southeastern corner of the state,…
Read more

Groundwater depletion causes California farmland to sink. Stanford study shows water levels must rise to halt subsidence.

By Josie Garthwaite 06/02/22
The floor of California’s arid Central Valley is sinking as groundwater pumping for agriculture and drinking water depletes aquifers. A new remote sensing study from Stanford University shows land sinking – or subsidence – will…
Read more

Groundwater and climate change: The unseen connection

The theme of this year’s National Groundwater Awareness Week, which runs through March 12, is “Groundwater awareness is important to you!” There are many reasons why groundwater is essential to health and the well-being of…
Read more

How rising groundwater caused by climate change could devastate coastal communities

By Kendra Pierre-Louis 12/13/21
Saulenas, along with her 46-year-old daughter Lauren, spent last winter—their covid winter—in Saugus, Massachusetts, in a house without a working furnace. Saulenas is in her 70s. Lauren, because of brain injuries she experienced in the…
Read more


We must change our relationship to water, or lose it forever

By Max Mccoy   07/11/21  
Out past the 100th meridian things get dry damned quick. The meridian traditionally marks the line where the west begins and agriculture is difficult without irrigation. You can find it easily on a map of…
Read more

Climate change’s impact on groundwater could leave ‘environmental timebomb’

By Daisy Dunne   01/21/19  
Over the next 100 years, the full impact that climate change is having on groundwater resources will become apparent in half of the world’s aquifers, a study concludes.
Read more