Research just published in Nature Communications by HAS Assistant Professor Laura Condon shows that even under modest climate warming scenarios, loss of groundwater may accelerate drying trends in the eastern United States. This new first-of-its-kind study simulates how water moves in the subsurface, particularly lateral movement, and connects with the land surface.
Condon used a large-scale computer simulation to demonstrate how groundwater will respond to persistent warming. Results show the eastern U.S. becoming much more sensitive to a lowering of the water table with the depletion of groundwater becoming disruptive to vegetation growth and stream and river flows. In the arid Southwest, deep groundwater already is largely disconnected from surface waters, so changes here may remain masked for a long time, and the region's vegetation has adapted to being disconnected from deep groundwater sources. Additionally, many of the systems put in place in the western U.S. for handling and managing water shortages are lacking in the eastern part of the country. Co-author Reed Maxwell, professor at the Colorado School of Mines, noted that "Even with a 1.5 degrees Celsius warming case, we're likely to lose a lot of groundwater. The East Coast could start looking like the West Coast from a water standpoint. That's going to be a real challenge."
Read more about their research findings in the UANews.org article, As Groundwater Depletes, Arid American West is Moving East, published on February 13, 2020.