Defining the Geopolitics of a Thirsty WorldSM
U.S. States Face Water Crisis As Global Heating Increases Strain On Supplies

Courtesy of The Guardian, a report on water stress in the United States where New Mexico tops the list of impacted states, followed by California, Arizona, Colorado and Nebraska as problems could intensify with global heating:

A handful of US states – including New Mexico and California – are facing significant strains on their water supplies that will only intensify with global heating, according to new rankings.

New Mexico tops the list and is the only state with “extremely high” pressures on its water availability. The state’s score is on par with the United Arab Emirates in the Middle East and Eritrea in Africa, the World Resources Institute (WRI) found.

California ranks second, followed by ArizonaColorado and Nebraska.

“We’re stretching our water supply pretty much as far as it can go … and even further,” said Leah Schleifer, a spokeswoman for WRI’s water program.

Experts with WRI said the data shows a global water crisis.

“The picture is alarming in many places around the globe, but it’s very important to note that water stress is not destiny,” said Betsy Otto, WRI’s global water director. “What we can’t afford to do any longer is pretend that the situation will resolve itself.”

The global research organization compared the water available in aqueducts to the amount withdrawn for homes, industries, irrigation and livestock.

Around the world, stress on water supplies can exacerbate conflict and migration, threaten food supplies and pose risks for water-dependent industries, including mining and manufacturing, WRI notes.

The US overall is not among the world’s most at-risk countries, although Mexico ranks No 24. A 2010 study predicted that climate-driven changes in crop yields in Mexico would lead to more emigration to the United States. And the global climate crisis is increasingly being recognized as a major factor in the exodus from Central America to the US.

Worldwide, at the top of the list are QatarIsraelLebanon, the Palestinian Territories and Iran. A total of 17 countries are facing “extremely high” risks and another 27 are facing “high” risks.

Scientists have also linked the violence and civil war in Syria to a drought driven by rising temperatures and massive water withdrawals. In the African Sahel, a semi-arid region that stretches coast to coast across northern Africa below the Sahara, they have documented similar water stresses as millions have migrated out of the countryside.

WRI’s experts explained that water stress is different from drought. But places where people are using water at a faster rate than it is replaced could see serious problems if they hit a drought – or a prolonged period without enough rain.

“With respect to climate change we know that in many places what we’re going to be seeing is more erratic, more unpredictable hydrology, precipitation. Either too much or too little, often in the same places,” Otto said.

The mid-latitudes around the globe are likely to receive less rainfall as temperatures rise. And they will be using more water, as crops draw up more water during dry periods and people use water-dependent electricity to run air conditioners, Otto said.

A recent analysis of 12m wells in the US found that as groundwater supplies are depleted, people and industry are digging deeper. Researchers called the trend an “unsustainable stopgap” that is only available to those who can afford it and where hydrologic conditions allow.

The last widespread drought in the US was in 2012, when more than 80% of the country experienced abnormal dryness or worse, and two-thirds of the country experienced drought, said Brad Rippey, a meteorologist for the agriculture department.

California saw an extended drought with conditions beginning in 2011 and not subsiding across the state until the last couple of years.

The state is expected to see huge population growth at the same time temperatures could be 5F warmer, sea levels keep rising and water from melting snowpack declines, said Joaquin Esquivel, chairman of the California water resources control board.

In the 2010s, drought hit the US islands of Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands. In 2016 it swept through the north-east. And in 2017 made its way through the northern plains.

Today, south-east Alaska’s rainforest is feeling the most intense drought in the country.

World Bank research has emphasized that “while the consequences of drought are often invisible, they are significant and cause ‘misery in slow motion.’”

This entry was posted on Tuesday, August 6th, 2019 at 6:55 pm and is filed under United States.  You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed.  You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site. 

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