News Feature | December 12, 2013

Water Scarcity Poses Huge Threat To 11 U.S. Cities

By Sara Jerome
@sarmje

crackedlakereg

A recent report offers bad news about water scarcity in the U.S. 

The report from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) "showed that nearly one in 10 watersheds in the U.S. is 'stressed,' with demand for water exceeding natural supply -- a trend that, researchers say, appears likely to become the new normal," according to the Huffington Post

The study listed major U.S. cities that could be deeply hurt by water shortages in the near future, according to the Post. They included Salt Lake City, UT; Lincoln, NE; Cleveland, OH; Miami, FL; Atlanta, GA; Washington, DC; El Paso, TX; San Antonio, TX; San Francisco, CA; Houston, TX; and Los Angeles, CA. 

“By midcentury, we expect to see less reliable surface water supplies in several regions of the United States,” the study’s lead author Kristen Averyt said in a release. “This is likely to create growing challenges for agriculture, electrical suppliers and municipalities, as there may be more demand for water and less to go around.” 

The system is so fragile that small changes can upset the balance. "A single power plant has the potential to stress surface supplies in a local area,” co-author James Meldrum said.

The study found that the U.S. West is particularly vulnerable to water stress. It cited two reasons for that finding: First, "the differences between average demand and average supply are relatively small, so slight shifts in either supplies or demands can trigger stress." And second, "Western water users have long relied on imported and stored water to supplement natural supplies, in order to meet demands."

The problem affects people all over the world. LiveScience reported "already, 2.7 billion people globally face at least some water scarcity."

For more on scarcity from Water Online—including how India is tackling the issue—click here

Image credit: "Cracked Lake," © 2006 Terry Shuck, used under an Attribution 2.0 Generic license: http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0/deed.en

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