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UF Researchers Say People Are Moving Away From Lakes And Rivers

River with part of kyak in it
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University of Florida researchers say the U.S. population is becoming less reliant on rivers and waterways. Instead trends have reversed to an increased demand for groundwater.

Historically, populations relied on rivers and waterways for transportation, agriculture, and drinking water. But now University of Florida researchers say U.S. populations are moving toward a new source of water; and it’s underground.  James Jawitz professor of soil and water sciences says with the peak of the second industrial revolution the population’s reliance on rivers and waterways reversed.

"Historically that’s where the big cities started but now people like Gainesville for example, there’s no major rivers in Gainesville and the only reason we can have a city here is because were using groundwater and that is a late 20th century phenomenon to be able to support larger and larger cities based on groundwater," Jawitz says.

Florida is no stranger when it comes reliance on groundwater. 90 percent of the state's water supply comes from underground aquifers. Jawitz says his study will help give context to Florida planners.

“By having an understanding of the spatial and temporal patterns over time where people live and are likely to live," Jawitz says. "What does that mean for water resources and ecosystems? We can think about how are the human societies going to be controlled by access to water and then the opposite, how are the human societies going to affect the water and the natural ecosystems?”

Jawitz co authored the study with doctoral student Yu Fang.