With about half of the country still suffering from extreme drought, farmers and businesses in the Western United States are looking at another hot, dry summer.
And the country’s water risk is a lot worse than most assessments suggest, according to a recent study from the Columbia University Water Center.
Taking into account past patterns of drought and water use, the Columbia study reveals that several major metro areas, including New York City, Washington, D.C., and Los Angeles, are at high risk for water scarcity, along with the Great Plains agricultural belt extending from North and South Dakota down to North Texas.
Here’s a list of the top 10 areas with the highest risk for water scarcity:
- Washington DC metro area
- New York metro area
- California area, from San Diego to Santa Barbara and inland
- Agricultural belt: Dakotas
- Agricultural belt: Nebraska
- Lower Mississippi belt: Arkansas area
- Agricultural belt: North Texas
- Agricultural regions in Ohio
- Agricultural regions in Minnesota
“All cities and all businesses require water, yet in many regions, they need more water than is actually available — and that demand is growing,” said Upmanu Lall, director, Columbia Water Center. “The new study reveals that certain areas face exposure to drought, which will magnify existing problems of water supply and demand.”
The study notes that a 99% population increase since 1950 combined with a 127% increase in water use has further decreased water availability, making it increasingly difficult to replenish water supplies after a drought.
The report doesn’t predict when or where the water scarcity will become an issue. In New York and Washington, D.C., for example, water is brought in from outside of the city from other sources, which are typically plentiful.
In other areas, however, the current drought — the worst since the Great Depression — is already bringing water availability issues to the fore.
According to the most recent federal forecast, about 48% of the contiguous U.S. is now experiencing moderate to exceptional drought, down from a high of 60% at the beginning of the year. The drought is expected to intensify in the West this summer, and while conditions should “ease” in the Plains states, the drought is not expected to end anytime soon and temperatures are expected to be above-normal for most of the lower 48 this summer.
According to Lall, there are two solutions to mitigating U.S. water risk. The first, he said, is raising awareness about the problem and managing water needs. The second, more problematic solution, is developing and improving the country’s water storage capabilities — which would require significant investment in water infrastructure.
“If you add up all the water infrastructure in the country, almost $1.5 trillion needs to be spent on water infrastructure in the next 20 years,” Lall said. “We have made almost no investments in water infrastructure since the Reagan administration. Something needs to be done about it.”
Full article: All Around The US, Risks Of A Water Crisis Are Much Bigger Than People Realize (Business Insider)