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Influence of Winter Season Climate Variability on Snow–Precipitation Ratio in the Western United States

We have to find ways to manage our headwaters sustainably and promote a culture of water conservation, as well,” Safeeq said. “Just because it rains, we can’t relax. No matter how much rain we get in the winter, we’re not going to have the same amount of water in the summers as we did when we had more snow.”

Experts forecast Northwest water woes

Here in Western Oregon, we should be somewhat insulated from water shortages caused by global warming due to a massive groundwater system that sits below the Cascade peaks and feeds rivers and streams in the region through a system of springs, according to Gordon Grant, a research hydrologist with the U.S. Forest Service. Grant estimates this natural reservoir holds some 30 cubic kilometers.

Unlikely Source Keeps Willamette Valley Fertile In Drought

“We’ve got this big, deep, huge volcanic aquifer,” said Grant. “I can’t find another place on the planet that has the same kind of properties as our place does.”

Given the conditions, which Grant said were equivalent to what we might see if the planet warmed 4 degrees, scientists had predicted the Willamette would hit record low levels.

When that wasn’t the case, hydrologists started thinking about why. 

The most likely candidate was this deep volcanic aquifer.

Many of Earth's groundewater basins run deficits

While GRACE provides valuable information about how global groundwater has changed, it can't measure exactly how much water is left in the aquifers, says Gordon Grant, a hydrologist at the U.S. Department of Agriculture Forest Service in Corvallis, Ore.  Despite that shortcoming, the new work "allows us to put our arms around the volumes of water that are in play and better understand, like an accountant would, withdrawals and deposits of groundwater around the world," he says.

Related Documents: 

New NASA data show how the world is running out of water

“This has really been our first chance to see how these large reservoirs change over time,” said Gordon Grant, a research hydrologist at Oregon State University, who was not involved in the studies.