7 billion and counting

“Your aquifer is the only part of your well system that you can’t replace.”

CaptureThat was the opening line at a lecture I attended last week at the NGWA Ground Water Expo in Las Vegas. The speaker, John Jansen, is the 2013 McEllhiney lecturer for the National Ground Water Research and Education Foundation (NGWREF), and he holds a PhD in Geological Sciences. His presentation is titled Keeping the Pumped Primed – Aquifer Sustainability.

John opened the presentation with a sobering look at the world population over the last 10,000 years. For most of that time the human population grew very slowly, taking until the industrial revolution to reach 1 billion people. It took another 100 years to get to 2 billion in 1927. But by 1960, there were 3 billion on the planet. In 1974 we hit 4 billion, 5 billion in 1987, 6 billion in 1999, and 7 billion just last year. Estimates are that even with controls, the world’s population will be 10 billion by 2100.

That’s a lot of people who will need water. Here’s where John’s presentation got even more interesting. There are 332 million cubic miles of water on earth, but 97.5% of that is in the oceans. That leaves 2.5% as freshwater, but 69% of that is tied up near the poles in glaciers. The vast majority of that is groundwater, and surface water comprises less than 0.4% of freshwater. You’ve no doubt heard some of these numbers before, but John presents them better graphically than I’ve ever seen. The message is clear: we simply cannot survive without sustaining the groundwater in our aquifers. It’s not only the future of our industry and your business, but it’s the future for much of human society.

All of that was in the first ten minutes of John’s presentation, but John’s perspective is not one of gloom and doom. From there, he moved into the details of how to sustain an aquifer for the very long term–not from an academic viewpoint, but from his real world experience in balancing local economic and political realities with environmental needs, as well as the steps needed for successful aquifer management.

The NGWREF McEllhiney Lecture Series gets stronger every year, and 2013 will be no exception. John will be presenting his lecture throughout the coming year, very likely at a state convention or event you are attending. I highly encourage you to attend. It will be time well-spent.

The McEllhiney Lecture Series in Water Well Technology is made possible by a grant from Franklin Electric.

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