For many Americans, the idea that the country might someday run out of fresh water is unfathomable. And while that possibility is extremely far off, there is a chance that the country will start feeling some of the effects of a shrinking water supply much sooner.
Sen. Tom Udall, D-N.M., reminded the public of this potential problem at a conference Thursday in Albuquerque, N.M.
"The danger is clear, and we have to act to protect our way of life in the West," Udall said at the conference. This week, he will propose what he called a modest amendment, one that would grant $15 million for water pilot projects nationwide, to a Senate bill on energy efficiency.
Global water consumption has tripled in the past 50 years. In the United States, the demand for fresh water will exceed the supply by 40 percent by 2030, according to a State Department report last year. Water scarcity results from short- and long-term droughts and human activity. Each month, 3.9 trillion gallons of water are consumed in the United States. Hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, a practice that many feel could give the U.S. energy independence, requires millions of gallons of water every day to extract natural gas from the earth. Nearly all of that water is lost.
According to the Environmental Protection Agency, at least 36 states are faced with local or regional water shortages. In New Mexico, the Rio Grande is on the World Wildlife Fund's list of the top 10 endangered rivers in the world. Last summer, residential wells in the Midwest, from Indiana to Missouri, began drying up, making it difficult to "wash dishes, or fill a coffee urn, even to flush the toilet," The New York Times reported.
In Texas, Gov. Rick Perry on Wednesday promised to oversee the divvying up of $2 billion to finance water projects.