Study: Switching to Solar and Wind Power Will Reduce Groundwater Use

(CN) – Increasing energy output from solar and wind power could result in less groundwater usage and more drought-resistant environments, according to a study published Wednesday in Nature Communications.

Researchers found solar and wind power, often viewed as valuable tools to help reduce reliance on fossil fuels and combat air pollution, can also lead to significantly less groundwater usage in areas where water management is most crucial, such as California. These reductions in spent groundwater, according to the study, have the potential to increase resistance to severe, long-lasting droughts.

Scientists report that with so much water being diverted to support hydropower, water for irrigation is consistently restricted. If communities increase their production of solar and wind energy, however, hydropower will be used less and more water can be allocated towards irrigation and crop needs. This will result in more manageable groundwater distribution, increased food production and more drought-resistance areas.

The study says the devastating droughts experienced in California have reshaped the way we should think about water distribution and helped to kickstart a new conversation on how to protect against future drought disasters.

“The recent severe and long-lasting drought in California triggered reforms to California’s water policies in the short term to restrict water use (e.g., restrictions on urban water use). It also elevated an ongoing debate on future water policy changes to cope with such extreme events, such as establishing a groundwater banking market, banning water-intensive crops (e.g. almonds) and implementing quota-based water rights for efficient water allocation,” the study states.

Researchers suggest more solar and wind power could help contribute to answering some of these ongoing questions and provide much needed relief for drought-vulnerable communities.

Xiaogang He, lead author of the study and postdoctoral fellow in civil and environmental engineering at Stanford’s Water in the West program, says this kind of energy output could have long-lasting positive effects on groundwater management.

“Solar and wind energy in California will enhance drought resilience and benefit groundwater sustainability and therefore will create added value to both energy and food production,” Xiaogang He said with the release of the study.

The study says wind and solar power could be used by communities around the world to help combat groundwater shortages and provide meaningful steps towards better managing entire water economies.

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