A new global study has used satellite technology and records of human activity to analyse Earth’s freshwater distribution for years, suggesting that wet areas are getting wetter, while dry areas are getting drier. This pattern is due to multiple factors, such as water management policies, human-induced climate change as well as natural climate cycles.
Protec Arisawa is a forward-looking company always searching for new solutions in our field, and our obligation is to always remain up to date with the latest and most relevant news affecting our sector. As global leaders in FRP pressure vessel manufacturing for reverse osmosis processes, everything related to water is essential for us.
New approach to an immediate problem
In many ways, we are facing a revolutionary scientific work. A NASA-led research team used 14 years of images and observations recorded by the Gravity Recovery and Climate Experiment (GRACE) mission, combined with data on human activities to map where –and why– freshwater is changing around the globe. Thanks to this innovative research technique, scientists have been able to track global freshwater trends in 34 regions around the world.
This study, published in the May 17, 2018 issue of the Nature science journal, includes other human data sources such as agricultural activities, mining and industry among others, and registers from 2002 to 2016. “This is the first time we’ve assessed how freshwater availability is changing, everywhere on Earth, using satellite observations”, stated Matt Rodell, lead author of the article and head of the Hydrological Sciences Laboratory.
Satellites to study Earth’s water
The twin GRACE satellites, launched in 2002 as a joint mission with the German Aerospace Center (DLR), measured the distance between the two satellites with an incredible accuracy, in order to detect changes in the Earth’s gravity field caused by mass movements on our planet. Using this method, GRACE scientists have been able to track variations in land water storage on a monthly to annual time scale, until the mission ended in October 2017.
The humid areas of the Earth are witnessing how the amount of precipitation they receive keeps increasing, while the dry areas are receiving fewer rains each year, and this leads to great global hydrological changes. As global temperatures continue to rise, cities around the world will have to figure out how to do more with less water. For example, in 2016 average daily per capita use in California was 321 litres, while the south-western region of the Golden State lost 4 gigatons of freshwater per year between 2007 and 2015. For reader’s information, a gigaton of water is the equivalent of the mass of the water contained in 400,000 Olympic swimming pools. Quite a trivial quantity, isn’t it?
“This observation-based assessment of how the world’s water landscape is responding to human impacts and climate variations provides a blueprint for evaluating and predicting emerging threats to water and food security,” as the study claims.
Fresh water is present in lakes, rivers, soils, snow, groundwater and glacial ice. The continuous loss of arctic mass, attributed to climate change, has severe implications for sea level rise. On the continental platforms, while water supplies in some regions are relatively stable, other areas typically experience increases or decreases, as the study reports.
Desalination as a future solution for water sustainability
In this context, the mastery of new water purification techniques and modern desalination processes is called to become a key factor that will set the pace in the path to find solutions to this problem that will undoubtedly change the world as we know it over the next 50 years.
At Protec, we strive every day to upgrade our FRP pressure vessel solutions, proving that reverse osmosis is one of the most advanced, efficient and environmentally friendly water purification technology: we are ready to face current global issued and well aware of the growing weight that innovation represents in finding sustainable ways to supply drinkable water.
M. Rodell, J.S. Famiglietti, D.N. Wiese, J.T. Reager, H.K. Beaudoing, F.W. Landerer and M.-H. Lo.