The National Geographic recently published an article titled, “Why Is America Running Out Of Water?” and the first thought that came to my mind was that day I was in middle school and my English teacher was telling us that America could one day run out of water. To the mind of the child I was back then, I thought it would just be easy to turn on the sink and it was there. That English teacher was, as some say, woke. He was onto the things that were happening and that would affect us years into the future.
The article goes on to describe weather events that brought water in many forms to different areas of the United States. As the scene was set with hailstorms, floodwaters, and even a blizzard, the news from a new report contrasted the current weather across the country. The report, Adaptation to Future Water Shortages in the UnitedStates Caused By Population Growth and Climate Change, is a warning that America is running out of water.
Within the next 50 years, many parts of the US may see their freshwater supply drop down by a third. This is due to the fact that Americans are using water in excess. By 2071, half of the rivers and freshwater basins could be unable to meet our monthly water demands — meaning serious water shortages. Currently, the estimated total daily usage of water by Americans is over 345 billion gallons — we literally use water for everything. Add in population growth — the US is expected to have 200 million more people by 2100 — and the number rises to unsustainable levels.
Water Shortages Across The Board
These shortages will affect not only the regions that we would expect to be dry, but areas such as the Great Plains, Southwest, and central Rocky Mountain states. California, the South, and the Midwest could be affected also. There are 204 water basins that provide freshwater to Americans, and 96 of them have been hit by high demand and water evaporation. Shortages could start as early as next year — not 50 years from now — in at least 83 basins. 40 states are expecting water shortages.
As climate change continues to intensify, dry areas will become drier at the same time as wet areas are getting wetter. The article pointed out the difference between my state — Louisiana — and Nevada. Louisiana gets 60 inches of rainfall each year (it feels like more, to be honest) and Nevada gets less than 10 inches of rain annually.
“Even where precipitation is projected to increase, mostly in the nation’s northern regions, the trend is toward more intense concentrations of rainfall that are difficult to capture and use,” National Geographic writes. “At the same time, 145 basins are expected to be drier, especially in the Southwest, southern Great Plains, and Florida. In the West, California has already faced some of its worst droughts in recorded history.”
Higher Temperatures Across The Board
Simultaneously, global temperatures will rise higher and higher. The US, the article noted, could be an additional 5.7 degrees Fahrenheit warmer. Keeping this in mind, extreme weather events could be more intense and occurs more frequently. We’ve already seen a preview in 2020.
The entire West Coast was on fire earlier this month. Colorado was on fire while having snow at the same time. And we have had so many tropical systems and hurricanes that they moved to the Greek alphabet to name them. Beta was the last storm to hit our area and Houston just had flooding issues. Hurricane Laura devastated Lake Charles and Southwest Louisiana while Sally took on the rest of the Gulf states. The article hints at worse to come. The only changes will be less water and higher temperatures.
What Can We Do?
The obvious thing we can do is to use less water. The article noted that many Americans rinse their dishes before putting them in the dishwasher, which wastes around 20 gallons of water for each load.
EarthEasy also has some tips. Stop using the toilet as an ashtray or for waste disposal. If you are able to, replace older toilets with new ones that use no more than 1.6 gallons per flush — this would cut indoor water use by 30%. Take shorter showers and be sure to install water-saving showerheads. Turn off the water after you wet your toothbrush, don’t let the faucet run when cleaning your vegetables, and try to recycle water where you can.
While handwashing uses more water than a dishwasher, you can wash dishes without wasting the water. If you have a double-basin, one can be used for the rinse water. If, like me, you only have a single basin, you can use a large bowl for the soapy water and the basin for the rinse. You can see more ideas on conserving water here.
Top photo by Johnna Crider, CleanTechnica