U.S. Counties at Risk because of Climate Change and Water Shortages
A new study funded by the Natural Resources Defense Council and published in the American Chemical Society’s Journal of Environmental Science & Technology reports that 7 in 10 U.S. counties risk fresh water shortages in the middle of the 21st century. Even more startling, is that more than 1 in 3 counties could be classified as having a high or extreme risk of water shortages in the same time period. According to the Census Bureau, population in the U.S. in 2050 is projected to increase by 48.8% from 282.1 million in 2000 to 419.9 million in 2050. This population boom will increase of total freshwater withdrawal by 20% between 2005 and 2050. Growth in water demand is driven largely by population growth and the need for new thermoelectric generation. Electricity generation, specifically thermoelectric cooling water withdrawal, and irrigation withdrawals for agriculture are the dominant components of the total freshwater withdrawal nationwide (40% and 36%, respectively), followed by municipal public and domestic water supply (14%).
The study, found that the southern, southwestern, and Great Plains areas were the most vulnerable parts of the U.S. to water scarcity. The projected percent increases in water withdrawal are greater than 25% in many areas of the U.S. including the arid Arizona/New Mexico area, the populated areas in the South Atlantic region, Florida, Mississippi River basin, and Washington, DC, and surrounding regions. Areas at the greatest risk include the Ogallala Aquifer (Central U.S.) and Edwards Aquifer (Texas), and in the U.S. southwest.
Water conservation and efficiency will be at the forefront of peoples’ minds in this century. There is a great need for new technologies and improved, integrated management. One positive step has been the creation of the National Integrated Drought Information System (NIDIS). Led by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), the NIDIS is focused on early warning and monitoring of impending droughts, consolidating data on physical and socio-economic effects of a drought, and resources for proactive planning for drought mitigation.
Click HERE to download the study