Water Scarcity - The U.S. Connection

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by Shannyn Snyder

Water scarcity is a global concern, and that means there's even a problem in our own backyard. While it may be difficult to put yourself in the shoes of an African child struggling to find fresh water, it's important to understand that water scarcity affects everyone, even here in the United States.

It seems impossible that a powerful river, like the Colorado River, is beginning to run dry in places. It seems farfetched that a huge body of water like Lake Mead in Arizona might become obsolete, but these and other dramatic changes are facing the United States. Some of our local neighbors are quickly finding it easier to understand the problems facing the driest and poorest geographic areas of the third world.

Some researchers claim that Lake Mead, which currently supplies water to 22 million people, may be dry by 2021. Water scarcity is not just an issue for those who "never had." It is a problem that faces people where water seemed abundant. Pollution, demand and other factors are ushering in these new problems.

Because of current water scarcity concerns, hundreds of homeowners who are today illegally drawing water from the Colorado River may soon be forced to cease pumping. As the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation works to preserve local waters, meet demand and prevent future shortages, these people will face the enforcement of fines.

Climate warming is thought to be decreasing water containment in the Colorado basins such as Lake Powell. Some of the Colorado River's lower course near Baja, California, is now actually running dry. Populations, especially along the arid Southwest bends of the river face a realistic threat to their drinking and irrigation water supply.

Environmentalists suggest low-cost but immediate solutions for managing drying waters, such as digging ponds or underwater receptacles. These low-tech fixes already help farmers in China. Still, water conservation and volume promotion needs to be a joint partnership effort and governmental agencies, land-owners, environmentalists and conversationalists. Outdated damming and gauges result in billions of gallons of lost water, but a quick fix for one local population might harm another downstream. One agency's priorities could harm another's. These facts highlight the need for shared information and cooperative effort.

Water scarcity within the U.S. is not just an environmental problem. Our current daily demand for water also affects its future availability. Wasteful flush toilets, non-insulated pipes and generous showerheads are all culprits to the water crisis. The Southwestern United States is already this emerging reality. A crisis may soon spread into other areas of the U.S. when local waterways can no longer replenish their resources to meet our growing demand. Many may "thirst" for more.

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