On Saturday 1 June 2013 I did what I do about 20 times per day and posted a Tweet:
There are 'endangered rivers' lists; I'm thinking about an 'endangered aquifers' list. Why not? @ngwatweets?
But this Tweet was different - it wasn't just a link to yet another news story about water wars, polluted rivers, etc. I wanted to gauge the interest in an idea. I was serious about this and the Tweeps took me seriously as well. So did the folks on my Facebook page.
Another list? Don't we have enough of them? And aquifers? Who cares about aquifers except GroundWaterWonks like yours truly? Well, one person who does is Sandra Postel, who proposed the idea just about one year ago. She even nominates some candidates.
There is no question that rivers have more cachet than aquifers. They provide more than just water for human and ecosystem use. They produce power, transportation, recreation, value to real estate (riverfront property, anyone?), beauty, floods, etc. They inspire writers, poets, artists, philosophers, photographers, theologists, and the rest of us. They provide peace, serenity and enhace spirituality.
Aquifers? Hmmm....Well, they provide lots of water for humans and ecosystems, and in some cases, power. Visuals? Hardly - except for the springs, lakes, and streams that they nourish.
But consider that aquifers contain far more freshwater than all the streams and lakes combined. In the USA, groundwater supplies, on average, about 30% of all streamflow. Need some more reasons why aquifers should be afforded the same status as streams and lakes? Read my post, Groundwater: The 'Rodney Dangerfield' of the Hydrologic Cycle and this NGWA fact sheet.
So what would make an aquifer endangered? Certainly one that is being overexploited, with excessive drawdowns, and that is critical to the local/regional eonomy and/or a significant ecosystem. Parts of the High Plains aquifer (aka Ogallala aquifer) come to mind. Or it might be heavily polluted (Cape Cod aquifer), or in danger of being polluted. Or its recharge area might be threatened with degradation or destruction because of development. This was an issue with the Edwards aquifer a number of years ago. The aquifers beneath my 'home town' - Long Island - would qualify as 'endangered'. Criteria would need to be devloped.
The recent USGS report would provide a good starting point for a list based on water quantity.
Who would do such a list? It needs to be an organization with credibility. I thought of NGWA but I am unsure they would be interested. The USGS has the ability, but would likely decline because the list would be too subjective. Maybe AWRA? An enviornmental group? Not high on my list. A university-affiliated organization?
There are reasons not to have a list. It will be subjective. It won't do much good. It will create arguments (maybe not bad!). It probably won't be promoted by many organizations because there are few compelling visuals. Let's face it, as one of my Tweeps put it: rivers are sexy; aquifers?
Call it what you will: 'The Endangered Aquifer List', 'Most Endangered Aquifer List', Really 'Endangered Aquifer List', Highly Endangered Aquifer List' - whatever.
We need to get aquifers and groundwater more in the public discourse. The proposed list would be one way to do so.
Next? Let's see the response to this post. Would you find such a list useful? What should the list include, besides the name and location of the aquifer?
"The original lists were probably carved in stone and represented longer periods of time. They contained things like 'Get More Clay. Make Better Oven.' " - David Viscott