Environment & Science

West loses 63 trillion gallons of groundwater to drought

Networks of GPS systems across the Western United States have revealed geologic uplift connected to the absence of water in the landscape. Findings of a study of the data are published in the journal Science by a team from the Scripps Institute of Oceanography and the U.S. Geological Survey.
Networks of GPS systems across the Western United States have revealed geologic uplift connected to the absence of water in the landscape. Findings of a study of the data are published in the journal Science by a team from the Scripps Institute of Oceanography and the U.S. Geological Survey.
courtesy Scripps/UCSD

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Researchers on Thursday reported the Western United States has lost 63 trillion gallons of groundwater since the beginning of 2013 due to the ongoing drought, causing the surface of the Earth to rise slightly.

The study from the U.S. Geological Survey and the Scripps Instituion of Oceanography was published in the journal Science.

The researchers discovered the groundwater loss and geologic uplift by using a network of GPS stations typically used to monitor seismic activity. Using the stations, researchers measured minute elevation gains and used them extrapolate the amount of groundwater lost.

Among their findings: