Tom Udall Pushes Plan to Battle Water Shortage

U.S. Sen. Tom Udall, D-N.M., listens to a panel of experts during a Senate committee field hearing on drunk driving held in Albuquerque, N.M., on Aug. 10, 2011.
National Journal
Marina Koren
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Marina Koren
Sept. 8, 2013, 8 a.m.

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.

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