America is running out of water. During the next 50 years, the nation could see its freshwater supply reduced by one-third. But, if you think that’s a problem for the next generation, you are wrong. This year alone, as many as 83 out of 204 U.S. water basins could begin to feel the brunt of these shortages.
And don’t think these shortages will only affect those regions that we would expect to be dry. The central and southern Great Plains, the Southwest and central Rocky Mountain states, as well as the South, Midwest and parts of California, are all in danger. The twin culprits are rising temperatures and changing rainfall patterns brought on by climate change.
The wettest regions of the country are getting wetter, while the driest areas are getting dryer. At the same time, we are seeing more intense concentrations of rainfall that make capturing and using that water more difficult. If you combine that with temperature changes that are expected to heat up the nation by 5.7 degrees in the years ahead, you have a perfect storm for water shortages.
But, that’s only the tip of the iceberg. The demand for clean, fresh water is also increasing. Population growth alone is setting us on a path where we are going to need to make hard choices between water use for drinking, irrigation (37 percent of water usage is for agriculture) and manufacturing. We already are fighting over water in many states. The Colorado River is just one example of the ongoing controversary of water use and state’s rights.
However, most Americans simply assume that, if push comes to shove, there will always be enough clean tap water in most of the major cities and towns, at least in places like the Northeast, where I live. Think again. Our drinking water has been contaminated by industry, weakening government oversight, and aging infrastructure for years and years. Did you know, for example, that a water main breaks in the U.S. approximately every two minutes?
Leaking lead from aging pipes in New Jersey; radioactive waste in the groundwater in Arizona and New Mexico from uranium mines; hookworm disease in Alabama from sewage pipes; mining spills in Kentucky; chemicals in the South Carolina water supply — these are just some of a long list of calamities that are popping up more and more frequently throughout the country.
In the middle of this crisis, the demographics of the U.S. population are changing. Some cities and communities are getting bigger and richer, while others in areas such as the Upper Midwest, the Great Plains, and the Mississippi Delta are dealing with fewer resources and declining populations. Unfortunately, these trends will mean increasingly unaffordable water for certain segments of the population going forward.
Today, for example, in some areas of North Carolina, a low-income family of six people needs to work four…