Is U.S. Having a Water Crisis?



Is the sun setting on America’s water supply?

Water is becoming a main focus in the lives of Americans all over the United States, especially states that have had ongoing fresh water issues. The headlines today are filled with articles concering water and shortages. Today’s headlines testify to the current water crisis in America. Lake Mead Drying Up, Supplies 90% of Las Vegas Water. U.S. Faces Climate Driven Water Shortages. The Coming Water Crisis. Southwest, Arizona Desalination Plant Approved., Not Just a Western Issue Anymore, Eastern States having Water Disputes.

Is time running out for our water supply and with current weather patterns of increased heat, more attention is being paid to a precious resource? Please understand, this message needs to be brought to people’s attention and it is time we take action. Water conservation is a vital issue in the future of America’s clean water supplies.

It seems interesting that a post I wrote over 2 years ago sounds exactly what is going on now with the U.S. water supply in 2010. Maybe even has got worse, but the same crisis exists today just like in 2008.

Revisiting  CG post on U.S. water supplies and shortages: 2008

If Water Runs Out, Oil May Be Hard to Swallow

Oil the elixir that runs industry, water the elixir that sustains life and industry. What happens if the If the U.S. runs out of water, oil may not be as important as we think?

A real dilemma facing our country that is raising the worst question of all. What happens if and when our water supply runs out? We can have oil and fuels, but if our water supply starts failing or begins to run out, what then? Unfortunately, this is happening now to our water supply in the US – I am not a voice in the wilderness or an alarmist, but people realize our water resources are being strained and even conservation of water that is being required by a lot of states may or may not help. Without water, our oil issues will seem somewhat small.

Era of Water Scarcity

Scientists and resource specialists say freshwater scarcity, even in unexpected places, threatens farm productivity, limits growth, increases business expenses, and drains local treasuries.

That’s desert. It was never meant to have cities. There are millions of people there, and they all have one water supply, only one, the Colorado.

“I truly believe we are moving into an era of water scarcity throughout the United States” said Peter Gleick, science adviser to Circle of Blue and president of the Pacific Institute, a think tank specializing in water issues based in Oakland, California. “That by itself is going to force us to adopt more efficient management techniques.”

From Circle of Blue, an interview with the Pacific Institutes’s Dr. Peter Gleick discusses water resource challenges the U.S. faces in the near future. As co-founder and president of one of the nation’s leading water think tanks, Gleick served as an academician at the International Water Academy in Oslo, Norway in 1999 and was named a MacArthur Fellow in 2003. He was also elected to the National Academy of Sciences in Washington D.C in 2006. Gleick currently serves as a science adviser for Circle of Blue.

Circle of Blue
(Above: Picture from Circle of Blue)

Lake Mead and the Hoover Dam make a bold statement of the U.S. water systems. Lake Mead is low and in a drought condition.

Striking symbols of American engineering prowess, Lake Mead and the Hoover Dam stand in testimony to the U.S. spirit of growth and prosperity. But the 28.5 million* acre-foot Lake Mead is shrinking, as an ever-thirsty nation sprawls across the desert and consumes the waters of the Colorado in an increasingly unsustainable way.

(*An acre-foot is a unit of volume commonly used in the U.S. in reference to large-scale water resources, such as reservoirs, aqueducts, canals, sewer flow capacity, and river flows.)

However, the We cannot take water for granted anywhere in any form in the US!

Exactly what would happen if we ran out of water, Check this Out.

From: (CSR Wire)
– July 9, 2008 –

Just as diminishing supplies of oil and natural gas are wrenching the economy and producing changes in lifestyles built on the principle of plenty, states and communities across the country are confronting another significant impediment to the American way of life: increased competition for scarce water.
Scientists and resource specialists say freshwater scarcity, even in unexpected places, threatens farm productivity, limits growth, increases business expenses, and drains local treasuries. The U.S. Drought Monitor, a weekly online report produced by the Department of Agriculture and the National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration, shows that severe drought still grips much of the American Southeast, is spreading east from California across the Rocky Mountains, and has also settled in the Texas Panhandle and parts of Oklahoma and Colorado.

While agriculture in the Colorado Basin faces shortages, farmers to the east in the high plains – tapping the Ogallala Aquifer – have progressively seen their wells dry up. The aquifer is the largest in the United States and sees a depletion rate of some 12 billion cubic meters a year, a quantity equivalent to 18 times the annual flow of the Colorado River.Since pumping started in the 1940s, Ogallala water levels have dropped by more than 100 feet (30 meters) in some areas.

Kevin Dennehey, program coordinator for the Ground-Water Resources Program at the U.S. Geological Survey, said, “The problem with the aquifer is that it’’s a limited resource. There is not an unlimited supply, so the recharge is much less than the withdrawals.”


(Above: Large automatic spraying system for crops in the midwest drawing water from Ogallala Aquifer)

How much longer will this type of irrigation be utilized before the Ogallala Aquifer becomes completely exhausted? I mentioned in a previous post about the effect growing corn has had on the midwestern states’ water supply.

With the aquifer being depleted so rapidly, what is going to happen to ethanol production that depends on corn crops that have to be heavily irrigated to maintain high yields? The prognosis for farmers, whose irrigation accounts for 94 percent of the groundwater use on the high plains, does not look optimistic. In the future, irrigation may not be possible at all as the levels continue to drop past the well intakes of farmers. More likely, before the pumping stops, the cost of drilling and maintaining deeper wells may exceed the value of what can be grown, severely limiting the farmland’s value. “There is no other water available,” said Dennehey.

Read More from the CSR Wire article.

including drought in Georgia, “In Atlanta, where a severe drought also persists, authorities pressed residents to reduce water use, successfully. Then leaders of the city’s Watershed Management Department, concerned about declining revenue to operate the system, asked permission to raise rates. Officials in Fulton County, where Atlanta is located, did the same thing, praising residents for their efforts at conservation — then increasing their rates by 15 percent. If approved by the city council, the average residential water bill in Atlanta would jump from $84 to $107 next year. ” The gravity of the situation hasn’t set in for most Americans. In Atlanta, where drought dramatically lowered Lake Lanier, the region’s primary reservoir, water scarcity is generally seen as temporary, and not related to how the region has grown. Water levels have risen slightly in Lake Lanier, but drought conditions still continue and as long as Atlanta uses over 2 billion gallons a day from a extremely low reservoir, the problem continues to be a serious problem.

Is there a water problem in the US? Most compelling information on this post. Water is the elixir of life and if we run out, oil will be hard to swallow!

Map: – Extent of state shortages likely over the next decade under average rain fall conditions.

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9 Responses to Is U.S. Having a Water Crisis?

  1. Xane July 24, 2008 at 10:25 am #

    How hard is it to turn seawater into freshwater?

  2. July 24, 2008 at 12:24 pm #

    @Xane: Thanks for your question.
    I am enclosing a link that explains how seawater is treated to make freshwater. The process is not that difficult if you have the right equipment.
    Enjoy the read:

  3. July 24, 2008 at 12:27 pm #

    @Xane: I meant to tell you that their is a reverse osmosis plant on the Colorado River and a RO plant in Tampa, Florida. Saudi Arabia used massive desalination operations (which includes RO) to make pure water.
    RO=Reverse Osmosis

  4. Ericson Wilkinson July 24, 2008 at 4:08 pm #

    I don’t think that water scarcity will be as big of a crisis as this article implies. We waste a lot of water, and I think higher prices and more demand will cause a shift towards more efficient uses of water, along with reclaimed water increasing in popularity for non-potable uses. We have so much room to improve our water usage, and water scarcity is going to drive that change. For example, farmers can shift to drip irrigation, cities can enforce using reclaimed water for lawn watering, and industrial uses of water can explore more efficient methods. Are these changes going to be quick, cheap, and painless? Of course not, but the world isn’t going to end either.

    If we were using our water resources at 100% efficiency and still running out then it would be troublesome, but we are far from that kind of efficiency.

  5. David Zetland July 26, 2008 at 12:21 pm #

    I agree with Ericson, but I think “higher prices and more demand will cause a shift towards more efficient uses of water” — not sure how high demand causes a shift, but I AM sure that higher prices will do that.

    Not only will higher prices (for those pumping the aquifer as well as others) give people the signal that water is scarce, but prices allow people to adjust in many different ways. (Not like mandatory conservation programs, etc.)

    Desalination, BTW, is not a silver bullet. It’s so energy-intensive that it should be left for special situations.

    Read more about why there will be no shortage at my blog,

  6. July 26, 2008 at 12:57 pm #

    @Ericson Wilkerson: Thanks for the comments, time will tell.
    Also depends what part of the country you are in and whether or not you have clean drinking water.
    Boston Mass. just spend $60 million dollars on a desalinization plant to insure they will have an adequate supply of clean drinking water.

  7. July 26, 2008 at 1:14 pm #

    @David Zetland: Thank you for your comments.
    Desalinization is no silver bullet, but if people need clean drinking water, such as Tampa, and Boston, desalinization plants will be built. Clean drinking water is scare in certain areas in the U.S. and people need to think about this. American people are creatures of habit and until the price of water really has a major up-shift, then water will continue to be wasted. Same with oil prices, if gas dropped back to $2.00-2.50 per gallon range, would Americans still want to break the chains of our oil addiction? Time will Tell.

  8. May 26, 2009 at 12:55 pm #

    @Erik Wilson. It seems there is major problems with water shortages in the west and mid-west. Lake Mead is drying up and if drought conditions continue in certain areas of the U.S., there will be more problems with water supplies.

    Also, even though Reverse Osmosis is very expensive, more cities in the U.S. are starting to use RO for clean drinking water.

  9. John Peter Thompson July 8, 2011 at 12:56 am #

    well written RT @chemicallygreen: @InvasiveNotes Check this out. Post I wrote 3 year… (cont)

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