Video: Global Water Changes Help Define the Anthropocene

By Tasha Eichenseher | May 21, 2013 12:18 pm

The Global Water System Project at the University of Bonn, in Germany, just released a video on water in the Anthropocene. If you can get past the melodramatic narration, there is a pretty stellar data visualization, based on a lot of federal agency data, that illustrates how the human footprint has changed the global water cycle.

A satellite image of farmland in the United States

Nearly 70 percent of usable freshwater resources go to irrigating fields and raising livestock. A satellite image shows the percentage of the U.S. covered in crops. Photo courtesy

Some of the ways civilization has made its mark on the hydrosphere:

  • Rainfall patterns are changing
  • Wet areas are becoming wetter
  • Dry areas are becoming drier
  • Humans move more sediment than natural erosion
  • We’ve built 48,000 large dams that change the course of rivers
  • Many rivers no longer reach the sea
  • Two-thirds of major deltas as sinking
  • We’ve drained half of global wetlands
  • We use an area the size of South America to grow our crops
  • And an area the size of Africa to raise livestock
  • We’ve altered snow and ice cover and ocean volume

Water in the Anthropocene from WelcomeAnthropocene on Vimeo.

The Global Water System Project is a research institute dedicated to understanding how all of these things are changing ecosystems in fundamental ways, and how we can adapt our water management strategies to supply everyone with the resources they need. Lofty goals.



MORE ABOUT: anthropocene, video, water

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Water Works

Water Works is a forum for telling stories about where our drinking water and food come from. It traces tap water back to its source, demystifies tales of pollution, dissects infrastructure, digs into soil quality, explores efficient farming, touches on energy and climate issues, and gets to the root of predicted food and water security problems.

About Tasha Eichenseher

Tasha Eichenseher is a senior editor at Discover magazine, where she produces print and digital stories and manages the Discover blogging network . With more than a decade of science journalism experience, Tasha has spent the last few years focused on writing and editing content about water. Before moving back to Wisconsin, she helped to launch National Geographic's freshwater initiative, website, and news series, and blogged for Water Currents. In 2011 and 2012, she studied water law, wastewater treatment and aquatic ecosystems as a Ted Scripps Environmental Journalism Fellow at the University of Colorado in Boulder. She takes her water with whiskey.


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