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Energy & Science

Up to 20 Percent of Groundwater Wells Are in Danger of Running Dry

Flood waters, meanwhile, could help replenish California aquifers.

Indian Farmers Give New Crops a Cautious Try as Water Woes Rise
Photographer: Prashanth Vishwanathan/Bloomberg

As many as one in five wells worldwide is at risk of running dry if groundwater levels drop by even a few meters, according to a new study appearing Thursday in the journal Science.

Wells supply water for half the world’s irrigated agriculture, as well as drinking water to billions of people. But the aquifers that wells draw from have been imperiled in recent years as intense demand and lack of government management have allowed them to be drained. The scale of the threat has been difficult to calibrate, however, especially at a global level.