Scientists using data from NASA's Gravity Recovery and Climate Experiment (GRACE) have found that the groundwater beneath Northern India has been receding by as much as one foot per year over the past decade. After examining many environmental and climate factors, the team of hydrologists led by Matt Rodell of NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center, Greenbelt, Md. concluded that the loss is almost entirely due to human consumption.
Groundwater comes from the natural percolation of precipitation and other surface waters down through Earth's soil and rock, accumulating in aquifers - cavities and layers of porous rock, gravel, sand, or clay. In some subterranean reservoirs, the water may be thousands to millions of years old; in others, water levels decline and rise again naturally each year. Groundwater levels do not respond to changes in weather as rapidly as lakes, streams, and rivers do. So when groundwater is pumped for irrigation or other uses, recharge to the original levels can take months or years.
More than 109 cubic km (26 cubic miles) of groundwater disappeared from the region's aquifers between 2002 and 2008 — double the capacity of India's largest surface water reservoir, the Upper Wainganga, and triple that of Lake Mead, the largest manmade reservoir in the U.S.
The animation shown here depicts the change in groundwater levels as measured each November between 2002 to 2008.
GCMD keywords can be found on the Internet with the following citation:
Olsen, L.M., G. Major, K. Shein, J. Scialdone, S. Ritz, T. Stevens, M. Morahan, A. Aleman, R. Vogel, S. Leicester, H. Weir, M. Meaux, S. Grebas, C.Solomon, M. Holland, T. Northcutt, R. A. Restrepo, R. Bilodeau, 2013. NASA/Global Change Master Directory (GCMD) Earth Science Keywords. Version 126.96.36.199.0