For much of the last week, policymakers’ eyes have been trained overseas, as President Obama tries to convince Congress (and the public) that the country must intervene in Syria. Some of those against a military strike on the region have called on Obama to focus on the issues at home: slow job growth, immigration reform, and the debt ceiling, which is expected to be hit next month.
But there’s another, rarely cited domestic issue that will likely be placed on the back burner, along with the others, now that Congress has returned from summer recess. And it’s one that, if taken to the extreme, makes a budget-crisis-induced government shutdown seem a little less worrisome.
The United States is running out of fresh water. Sen. Tom Udall, D-N.M., reminded the public of that at a conference Thursday in Albuquerque, N.M. Udall, who voted no to a resolution authorizing U.S. military intervention that ultimately passed, wants the country to focus on such domestic issues. “I don’t think this is the time for us to get embroiled in the Syrian civil war,” he told NPR on Thursday.
Global water consumption has tripled in the last 50 years. In the United States, the demand for fresh water will exceed the supply by 40 percent by the year 2030, according to a State Department report last year. Water scarcity results from short- and long-term droughts and human activity.
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 swore in board members on Wednesday to oversee the divvying up of $2 billion to finance water projects.
“The danger is clear, and we have to act to protect our way of life in the West,” Udall said at the conference. Next 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.
Each month, 3.9 trillion gallons of water are consumed in the U.S. For many Americans, the idea that the country might someday run out of fresh water is unfathomable. That possibility is also extremely far off. There is, however, a chance that the country will start feeling some of the effects of a shrinking water supply much sooner. 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.
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Along party lines, the Federal Communications Commission on Thursday voted to tighten privacy standards for Internet service providers. "The regulations will require providers to receive explicit customer consent before using an individual’s web browsing or app usage history for marketing purposes. The broadband industry fought to keep that obligation out of the rules."
President Obama commuted the sentences of another 98 drug offenders on Thursday. Most of the convicts were charged with conspiracy to distribute drugs or possession with intent to distribute. Many of the sentences were commuted to expire next year, but some will run longer. Others are required to enroll in residential drug treatment as a condition of their release.
Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) said that "there was “precedent” for a Supreme Court with fewer than nine justices—appearing to suggest that the blockade on nominee Merrick Garland could last past the election." Speaking to reporters in Colorado, Cruz said: "I would note, just recently, that Justice Breyer observed that the vacancy is not impacting the ability of the court to do its job. That’s a debate that we are going to have.”
The Democratic National Committee sued the Republican National Committee in U.S. District Court in New Jersey for aiding GOP nominee Donald Trump as he argues that the presidential election is "rigged." The DNC claims "that Trump's argument is designed to suppress the vote in minority communities."