Maryland, Other States Facing Dropping Water Tables

In a op-ed (2016-08-04), Bay Journal contributor Liza Field warned that counties across the United States, including in the Chesapeake Bay region, are facing dropping water tables and future water shortages.

“The water table is dropping all over the world,” says Jay Famiglietti, senior NASA hydrologist.

Famiglietti’s research team revealed, via satellite data, we humans are depleting our world’s biggest aquifers much faster than precipitation can restore them. “We’re not just up a creek without a paddle,” he says, “we’re losing the creek too.” …

Meanwhile “back East,” in formerly wet states, we too are up a dry creek. Population density, impervious development and hotter, drier summers have increased water expenditures while decreasing deposits.

Record low levels in Lake Lanier, near Atlanta, have intensified a “Tri-state Water War” between Georgia, Alabama and Florida.

Here in the Mid-Atlantic, coastward areas like southern Maryland and eastern Virginia keep digging deeper into aquifers that are dropping toward saltwater levels.

Field blamed the decreasing water levels on the removal of rehydration processes, wasteful use of deep aquifer water for short term goals or revenue, and in the United States at least, “flabby” water laws. Field argued that much of the problem could be solved by: (1) restoring the rehydration process; and (2) changing perceptions about water usage and wasting water.

Thin-soiled and shadeless lawns, vast griddles of parking blacktop, paved driveways dumping into streets — all shunt precipitation straight down storm-drains, then rivers. This valuable freshwater cargo, intended to bless the land, is instead mixed with pollutants and rushed to the coast, where it contributes to dead zones and sea-rise.

Why promote and reward such impoverishing landscapes? Directives for permeable, water-saving design abound via state agencies, university extensions and groups like the Permaculture Research Institute or Chesapeake Bay Foundation.

But you yourself need to plug in. Next time it rains, you might irrigate your mind by stepping outside to notice. Where does this valuable water flow and vanish? Where might it be invested into the ground and saved, via trees, native plants and protective humus?