Water Crisis in the United States

August 19, 2012 by  
Filed under Blog, Climate Change, Drought, Front Page, Slideshow, Tips, Water

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Drought continues to plague the US as the summer of 2012 draws to a close. Graphic: NOAA/NESDIS/NCDC

Drought continues to plague the US as the summer of 2012 draws to a close. Graphic: NOAA/NESDIS/NCDC

The southwestern portion of the United States has historically been a dry area, but the problem has become much worse in recent years. About 30 million people in the Southwest rely on the Colorado River for their water, and the river’s level has been declining steadily.

Population growth, weather changes and modern agricultural habits are putting a strain on the U.S. water supply. Educating people about the causes and effects of the water crisis is the first step toward making large-scale changes in how people think about water use.

How Climate Change Affects Water Supply

Higher temperatures, particularly in regions of the Rocky Mountains that usually have snow pack year ’round, are affecting water supply across the country. Runoff when snow melts in the Rockies each spring and summer supplies not only the Colorado River, but also the Columbia River and Missouri River running east from the Rockies. But with temperatures steadily increasing over time, less snow pack is forming, resulting in less runoff to rivers. Experts predict that an average annual temperature increase of just five degrees would decrease the nation’s water supply by 20 percent. In an area already parched by drought, this change could be catastrophic.

Significant Impacts of a Water Crisis

Drought takes a toll on agriculture. About 70 percent of the water in the Colorado River is allocated to farmers, and a decrease in supply impacts crops throughout the Southwest. California has been using an enormous amount of groundwater to grow fruits and vegetables over the last several decades. Texas also uses groundwater to grow grains in the northern portion of the state. Since these crops are more difficult to grow when groundwater is depleted, food will become more expensive.

Eventually, the water crisis could lead to global unrest as countries squabble over water rights. Picture what is happening now with oil, but with water instead, which is a much more important resource.

Solutions to the Water Crisis

Everyone can play a part in solving the water crisis – from farmers to city governments and individual consumers. Here are some ways you can help relieve the pressure on water resources:

  • Plant grasses with deeper roots, which reduce runoff and hold moisture in the top layer of soil when it does rain. This is particularly helpful for cattle farmers who struggle to keep their cattle fed during arid conditions.
  • Improve processes to reclaim waste water, treat it and recycle it back into the municipal water supply. Households can implement this on a small scale by using “gray” water from sinks and showers to flush toilets.
  • Drink filtered water rather than bottled water. Using water filters in the home is significantly less wasteful than drinking bottled water that has been transported across the country.
  • Considerably reduce the use of water in household gardens by planting drought-resistant lawns or decorative plants and watering them with rainwater collected in a barrel.
  • Reduce household water use by installing low-flow shower heads, sink faucet aerators and low-flow toilets. Also choose dishwashers and clothes washers that use less water.

The water crisis is likely to get worse before it gets better, but now is the time to start implementing changes. Being attentive to increasing temperatures and conserving existing water supplies will help soften the blow. Ultimately, the population of the U.S. will need to change how we view water, and seeing it as a valuable commodity will help with that.

Lindsey Harper Mac

Guest Writer

Blue Planet Green Living (Home Page)

Lindsey Harper Mac writes on behalf of DiscountFilters.com. She is a professional writer in Indianapolis and is working on her Masters degree.