NASA notes alarming freshwater loss in Middle East

News study by US National Aeronautics and Space Administration says region has lost over points to loss of over 144 cubic/km over last seven years


 A new study by the United States National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) found an alarming decrease in the amount of freshwater available in the Middle East.

 The report said that an amount of freshwater “almost the size of the Dead Sea” has been lost in parts of the Middle East over the past seven years.

  According to a NASA press release, scientists at the University of California, the Goddard Space Flight Center in Maryland and the National Center for Atmospheric Research in Colorado, found that “During a seven-year period beginning in 2003 that parts of Turkey, Syria, Iraq and Iran along the Tigris and Euphrates river basins lost 144 cubic kilometers of total stored freshwater.”

 The researchers attribute about 60% of the loss to pumping of groundwater from underground reservoirs, the NASA release said.

 The findings, which will be featured in the coming issue of Water Resources Research, are the result of one of the first comprehensive hydrological assessments of the entire Tigris-Euphrates-Western Iran region.

 According to the researchers, since obtaining ground-based data in the area is difficult, satellite data, such as those from NASA’s twin Gravity Recovery and Climate Experiment (GRACE) satellites, were essential.

  GRACE is providing a global picture of water storage trends and is invaluable when hydrologic observations are not routinely collected or shared beyond political boundaries, NASA said.


GRACE satellite data (Screenshot: NASA website)

 “GRACE data show an alarming rate of decrease in total water storage in the Tigris and Euphrates river basins, which currently have the second fastest rate of groundwater storage loss on Earth, after India,” Jay Famiglietti, principal investigator of the study and a hydrologist and professor at UC Irvine, said.

 “The rate was especially striking after the 2007 drought. Meanwhile, demand for freshwater continues to rise, and the region does not coordinate its water management because of different interpretations of international laws.”

 GRACE,” he added, “Is the only way we can estimate groundwater storage changes from space right now.”

 The data led the team to conclude that about one-fifth of the water loss noted was the result of soil drying up and snowpack shrinking, partly in response to the 2007 drought.

 According to the study, loss of surface water from lakes and reservoirs accounted for about another 20% of the losses. The majority of the water lost – roughly 90 cubic kilometers – was due to reductions in groundwater.

 “That’s enough water to meet the needs of tens of millions to more than a hundred million people in the region each year, depending on regional water use standards and availability,” Famiglietti said.

 “Water management is a complex issue in the Middle East,” fellow researcher Kate Voss noted. “It’s an area that is already dealing with limited water resources and competing stakeholders.”

  Famiglietti added: “The Middle East just does not have that much water to begin with, and it’s a part of the world that will be experiencing less rainfall with climate change.

 “Those dry areas are getting dryer. The Middle East and the world’s other arid regions need to manage available water resources as best they can.”

NASA’s GRACE is a joint mission with the German Aerospace Center and the German Research Center for Geosciences, in partnership with the University of Texas at Austin.


top of page ^

Democrats plan another $1 trillion in taxes

Pelosi says last week’s $620 billion ‘is not enough’

You may notice a smaller total in your first paycheck for 2013,


because the “fiscal cliff” deal allowed a tax break for working people to end, and Social Security taxes to rise. It was part of the $620 billion in increased taxes Barack Obama was given by Congress just last week.Critics warned at the time he’d be back for a lot more of your paycheck.

 Now Obama’s party has confirmed that, with several members explaining their demands for another $1 trillion in tax increases on Americans.

“We’ve done about $2 trillion. I thought $4 trillion is the goal we should reach. I think we’re about halfway there. We need another $2 trillion,” said Sen. Ben Cardin, D-Md., a member of the Finance Committee, in a report in The Hill.

He explained what already was done, claiming a $917 billion cut in spending under the Budget Control Act from 2011, and last week’s $620 billion in new tax revenue. He said the interest and related numbers affected makes that package add up to about $2 trillion.

He said another $2 trillion is needed, of which $1 trillion needs to be in additional taxes.

The report said Sen. Jon Tester, a Democrat from Montana who won a close re-election in November, has called for similar numbers.

In a report in Politico, ex-House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., noted Americans simply aren’t paying enough. The $600 billion-plus “is not enough on the revenue side.”