Aquifer overexploitation causes water shortages, reduces water quality and causes ground movements, affecting surface topography and infrastructure. The overexploitation of groundwater can generate continuous land subsidence that in some cases affects large areas and even collapses urban structures. Mexico City is sinking 25 cm/year, similar to the rates in Jakarta and Manila, where sea level is also rising due to climate change. Closer to us, in Murcia Region, we find the highest rate of land subsidence in Europe (10 cm/year) caused by aquifer overexploitation. Groundwater is a scarce and dispersed resource, and therefore, control and management is a major challenge. In Spain alone, there are more than 500,000 illegal wells, extracting the equivalent of the annual consumption of 58 million people. Globally, 20% of the world’s aquifers are overexploited and the number continues growing. New tools are needed to effectively control the overexploitation of aquifers over large areas at a competitive cost.
Groundwater extraction in detrital aquifers generates induced subsidence in the ground surface while aquifer recharge causes surface uplift. DInSAR technology measures (with millimeter precision and without ground instrumentation) this surface deformation, providing valuable information to describe the dynamics of the loading and discharge cycles in detrital aquifers. This spatially explicit, high-resolution information can substantially improve decision-making in groundwater management. Moreover, DInSAR technology allows reconstructing past subsidence and ground movements from the processing of archive satellite images over long periods of time, obtaining a higher density of control points (virtual sensors) than traditional methods.
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