Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Droughts and the Water Crisis

Most of the US is currently under a drought, including my state, Oklahoma. Oklahoma is mostly under an extreme drought with a tiny bit under a severe drought left and a growing area under an exceptional drought, which is the highest level. Oklahoma is currently under a state of emergency as well a statewide burn ban, due to the drought.

My town, and many across Oklahoma, has issued watering restrictions to try and curb water use. However, these restrictions are hard to enforce and many are violating them, putting strain on our water supply. Last summer we had a drought as well and the hottest summer ever in the U.S., that summer we had to be put under a water emergency at one point, yet people still didn't follow the rules.

We are used to going to the tap and having clean water, many are unable to grasp that, that may not always be the case. States and cities are already fighting over water. In my state two local tribes, the Chickasaws and the Choctaws, are currently in a legal battle with the state of Oklahoma over water rights. These fights are becoming more common as clean water is becoming scarcer and our demand keeps rising.

The EPA says, "with water use in the United States increasing every year, many regions are starting to feel the pressure. In the last five years, nearly every region of the country has experienced water shortages. At least 36 states are anticipating local, regional, or statewide water shortages by 2013, even under non-drought conditions."

Read that, "even under non-drought conditions." Most of the country is under drought conditions right now and there is concern that this could be our new norm. And a water crisis would also be a food crisis, as we are already seeing this summer.

"California's Central Valley is sometimes called the nation's "fruit and vegetable basket." The High Plains, which run from northwest Texas to southern Wyoming and South Dakota, are sometimes called the country's "grain basket." Combined, these two regions produced agricultural products worth $56 billion in 2007, accounting for much of the nation's food production. They also account for half of all groundwater depletion in the U.S., mainly as a result of irrigating crops." - read more

The Mississippi River is a major part of how we get food and other supplies around the U.S. and lately there have been some major issues with using the Mississippi for transport.
"With the river so low, the channels are shallower and narrower, presenting problems for barges loaded with coal, grain, iron, steel, sand, gravel and more. They must reduce their loads to avoid bottoming out and take extra care not to collide when passing another string of barges in the thinner channel."- read more

We have witnessed in resent history just how important the Mississippi River is and what part of it being shut down can do to our food supply and other commodities. After Hurricane Katrina, barge traffic on the Mississippi River was shut down and no tankers or other cargo ships were able to go in or out of the Port of New Orleans. This lead to a rise in price of many products as supplies were limited.

While major changes need to be made to our water system, we can all make a difference. In 2000, the U.S. used more than 148 trillion gallons of water, that includes residential, commercial, agriculture, manufacturing, etc.. and adds up to almost 500,000 gallons per person. That's a HUGE water footprint. But we can each reduce that number by changing our habits. Buying less stuff helps reduce the water used in manufacturing, using smart irrigation for your yard, or better yet none, not wasting water in your home, when buying new toilets get ones that use less water, the list goes on and on.

While the worry about shortages in oil is a scary one as so much of our lives depends on fossil fuels, a water shortage would be even more devastating. We can live without oil, we can't live without water.

I would love to hear your tips for saving water, as well as any personal stories you have about how the current water issues are impacting your life, be sure to share in the comments below.

Photo Credits: Al Jazeera English

No comments:


Blog Widget by LinkWithin