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GROUNDWATER HEATING AND ITS IMPACTS IN INDIA



  Jun 10, 2024

GROUNDWATER HEATING AND ITS IMPACTS IN INDIA



Under your feet lies the world’s biggest reservoir. Groundwater makes up 97% of all usable freshwater. It resides in the voids between grains and cracks within rocks, visible in springs, caves, or when pumped for use. Although often hidden, groundwater is crucial for ecosystems globally and is a vital resource for people.

THREAT FROM CLIMATE CHANGE

Groundwater might seem protected from climate change due to its underground location. However, this is no longer true. As the atmosphere heats up, heat penetrates underground. Subsurface warming is evident from temperature measurements in boreholes worldwide.

International scientists have modeled future groundwater heating. Under a realistic greenhouse gas emission scenario, with a projected mean global atmospheric temperature rise of 2.7°C, groundwater will warm by an average of 2.1°C by 2100, compared to 2000. This warming varies by region and is delayed by decades compared to surface warming.

CONSEQUENCES OF HOTTER GROUNDWATER

1. Positive Aspects:
• Energy Source: The subsurface warming traps significantly less energy than the ocean but is still notable. This heat can be accessed and used to sustainably warm homes through geothermal heat pumps, powered by renewable energies. Geothermal heat pumps are becoming popular for space heating in Europe.

2. Negative Aspects:
• Ecosystem Disruption: Warmer groundwater can harm the diverse life found underground and the plants and animals dependent on it. Temperature changes can disrupt the delicate balance they have adapted to.

• Aquatic Life: Groundwater flows into lakes, rivers, and oceans, supporting ecosystems. Warmer groundwater adds to the heat from the sun, potentially making it too warm for fish and other species. Warm waters hold less oxygen, leading to mass fish deaths, as seen in Australia’s Murray-Darling Basin. Cold water species like Atlantic salmon rely on constant cool groundwater for breeding, which could be disrupted by warming.

• Water Quality: Groundwater warming can degrade drinking water quality. Temperature influences chemical reactions and microbial activity. Warmer water can trigger harmful reactions, such as metals leaching into the water, which is concerning in areas with limited clean drinking water access.

• Industrial Impact: Industries like farming, manufacturing, and energy production rely on groundwater. Warmer or more contaminated groundwater can disrupt their operations.

LOCAL IMPACTS IN INDIA

India, heavily reliant on groundwater for agriculture, drinking water, and industrial use, faces significant risks from groundwater warming. Regions already experiencing water scarcity may see worsened conditions, affecting millions.

STUDYING AND ADAPTING TO CHANGES

To address global groundwater warming, we must study temperature changes over time and across regions to predict future trends and develop adaptation strategies. Groundwater warming is a hidden yet significant consequence of climate change, with delayed but extensive impacts on ecosystems, drinking water supplies, and industries worldwide.



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