Researchers find that pumping draws young groundwater to new depths, potentially with contaminants in Tow

Featured, Human Interest

Modern groundwater (dark blue) slowly seeps into the ground, aging before it gets too deep. But wells (bottom right) suck up water at depth, drawing young groundwater deeper faster. Credit: Nature Communications (2022)

How old is your water? It may seem like a peculiar question at first, but there are real implications to how long a drop of water has spent underground. Research suggests that the water cycle is speeding up in some places as a result of human enterprise.

Scientists at UC Santa Barbara discovered that relatively young groundwater tends to reach deeper depths in heavily pumped aquifer systems, potentially bringing surface-borne pollutants with it. The study, led by recent postdoctoral fellow Melissa Thaw, appears in Nature Communications.

“We usually think deep groundwater is safe from the contaminants found closer to the Earth’s surface,” said Thaw. “However, intensive groundwater pumping is pulling recently replenished groundwater to deeper depths, potentially pulling contaminants down, too.”

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