America Is Still Running Out of Fresh Water

While we’re tens of decades away from a serious shortage, there’s some reason to worry now.

The Rio Grande, which flows from Colorado to the Gulf of Mexico, is one of the most endangered rivers in the world.
National Journal
Marina Koren
Add to Briefcase
See more stories about...
Marina Koren
Sept. 6, 2013, 10:05 a.m.

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.

What We're Following See More »
19 FACE-TO-FACE MEETINGS
Latest Count: 12 Trump Campaign Staffers Had Contact with Russians
12 minutes ago
THE LATEST
THREE STILL UNACCOUNTED FOR
Eight Seaman Rescued as Navy Plane Goes Down Near Japan
25 minutes ago
THE DETAILS

"Eight people were rescued and three remained missing after a U.S. Navy plane crashed into the western Pacific Ocean on Wednesday, the Navy said. The C-2 “Greyhound” transport aircraft came down about 500 nautical miles (925 kilometers) southeast of Okinawa as it was bringing passengers and cargo from Japan to the USS Ronald Reagan aircraft carrier, the Navy said in a statement."

Source:
AT ISSUE: COMEY FIRING, SESSIONS’S RECUSAL
Mueller Seeks Documents from DOJ
2 days ago
THE LATEST

Special counsel Robert Mueller "is now demanding documents from the department overseeing his investigation." A source tells ABC News that "Mueller's investigators are keen to obtain emails related to the firing of FBI Director James Comey and the earlier decision of Attorney General Jeff Sessions to recuse himself from the entire matter."

Source:
MULVANEY SAYS PROVISION ISN’T A DEALBREAKER
Trump May Be OK with Dropping Mandate Repeal
2 days ago
THE LATEST

"President Donald Trump would not insist on including repeal of an Obama-era health insurance mandate in a bill intended to enact the biggest overhaul of the tax code since the 1980s, a senior White House aide said on Sunday. The version of tax legislation put forward by Senate Republican leaders would remove a requirement in former President Barack Obama’s signature healthcare law that taxes Americans who decline to buy health insurance."

Source:
FRANKEN JUST THE BEGINNING?
Media Devoting More Resources to Lawmakers’ Sexual Misconduct
2 days ago
THE LATEST

"Members of Congress with histories of mistreating women should be extremely nervous. Major outlets, including CNN, are dedicating substantial newsroom resources to investigating sexual harassment allegations against numerous lawmakers. A Republican source told me he's gotten calls from well-known D.C. reporters who are gathering stories about sleazy members."

Source:
×
×

Welcome to National Journal!

You are currently accessing National Journal from IP access. Please login to access this feature. If you have any questions, please contact your Dedicated Advisor.

Login