Stanford University researchers just discovered a giant reservoir of water deep underneath California’s Central Valley. While the thought of accessing 713 trillion gallons of fresh, untapped water might be tempting, the reality isn’t that simple and the find probably won’t save the state from the effects of climate change.
A paper recently published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences confirmed that the underground reservoir in question contains almost three times as much water as previous estimates. New light was shed on just how much is down there, thanks to technology that allowed researchers to dig deeper. The underground water reservoir lies between 1,000 and 3,000 feet underground.
Before anyone gets too excited, the water may not be entirely usable – even if it can be accessed. The same Stanford researchers found that 30 percent of the water has a chance of being contaminated by nearby oil and natural gas drilling sites. Digging that deeply could also cause the ground to sink, which is already happening in the surrounding area.
Rob Jackson, lead author of the study, told Gizmodo, “We need to be careful about using [the water]. California’s groundwater pumping has been in overdraft for years, especially during the drought. Finding more water than expected doesn’t mean we should waste it.” The temptation is strong in a land where 63 trillion gallons of water were lost in just the last 18 months. However, finding more H2O to replace what we’ve used is akin to putting a Band-Aid on a broken arm. Combatting the effects of climate change and significantly changing the way humans use water resources should come first.