When the rivers become silent, so will mankind.
By 2050, thousands of rivers and streams worldwide could pass a critical ecological threshold, new research shows.
There’s more fresh water hidden below Earth’s surface in underground aquifers than any other source besides the ice sheets. That groundwater plays a critical role for rivers worldwide, from the San Pedro to the Ganges, keeping them running even when droughts bring their waters low.
But in recent decades humans have pumped trillions of gallons out of those underground reservoirs. The result, says research published Wednesday in Nature, is a “slow desiccation” of thousands of river ecosystems worldwide. Already, somewhere between 15 and 21 percent of watersheds that experience groundwater extraction have slipped past a critical ecological threshold, the authors say—and by 2050, that number could skyrocket to somewhere between 40 and 79 percent.
That means hundreds of rivers and streams around the world would become so water-stressed that their flora and…
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