Giant cracks open up across the US. Scientists warn it’s a crisis

by The Technical Blogs


The United States is facing a severe environmental crisis as the ground begins to split open across southwestern parts of the country due to excessive groundwater pumping.

These giant cracks, known as fissures, have been spotted in states including Arizona, Utah, and California, stretching for miles on end.

Groundwater, which provides almost half of all drinking water and about 40% of global irrigation, is being pumped faster than the Earth can naturally replenish it, Business Insider reported.

This over-extraction causes the land to sag and create these fissures, according to Joseph Cook, a researcher at the Arizona Geological Survey. “The fissures are not a naturally occurring thing,” Cook said. “It’s something we’ve caused to form.”

A recent earth fissure in Cochise County filled with water following heavy rain storm. (Photo: AGS)

These fissures, often found in the basins between mountains, pose significant threats to homes, roads, canals, and dams, and can negatively impact property values, livestock, and human lives. Arizona has been aware of this issue for a long time and has been monitoring it since 2002. Currently, there are 169 miles of fissures charted by the Arizona Geological Survey.

A recent investigation by The New York Times revealed that these fissures are evidence of a national crisis.

The report stated that aquifers, which supply about 90% of US water systems, are being depleted so severely they may not be able to recover. Almost half of the monitored sites have significantly declined in the past 40 years, with four out of every ten sites hitting all-time lows in the past decade.

According to Cook, some sites in Arizona are already beyond saving due to consistent and extreme water use that hasn’t allowed enough time for rainwater to replenish underground aquifers. “Basically, some of these basins in Arizona are so far beyond that point that it’s never going to bounce back,” Cook added.

Road damaged by earth fissure, Cochise County. (Photo: AGS)

The situation is further exacerbated by climate change. As global temperatures rise, rivers shrink, forcing farmers to rely even more on groundwater reserves for freshwater.

The Colorado River, a major freshwater source for farmers across the Southwest, has already declined by nearly 20% since 2000.

The lack of regulation against groundwater pumping is one of the main issues in addressing over-pumping. The federal government has almost no regulations, and individual states have weak, variable rules. Arizona, for instance, has historically had unregulated groundwater use, operating on a first-come-first-serve basis.

Cook warns that if habits don’t change and underground aquifers are not allowed to naturally replenish themselves, these fissures will continue to grow. “As long as we keep using more than what naturally recharges, we’re going to have this problem,” he concluded.

Edited By:

Sibu Kumar Tripathi

Published On:

Sep 12, 2023


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