By 2071, nearly half of the 204 fresh water basins in the United States may not be able to meet the monthly water demand. These model projections, recently published in the journal Earth’s Future, are just one preliminary component of the upcoming Resources Planning Act (RPA) Assessment expected to be published next year. In 1974, congress required that this assessment of US renewable resources be published every 10 years.

Conducted by the U.S. Forest Service, the research describes two causes for the projected shortages. The first is that the U.S. will simply have more people. Despite that the average American is using less water, population growth is still expected to increase water demand across most of the country.

Second, the water supply itself is expected to decrease. Projected climate change affects both rain patterns and temperatures. While rainfall is expected to increase in some parts of the US, the southern Great Plains and parts of the South won’t be so lucky. The water basins rely on rainfall to feed the rivers and tributaries that flow into them. Separately, more water will evaporate from reservoirs and streams as the climate gets warmer, further chipping away at the water supply. Around 50 years from now, many U.S. regions may see water supplies reduced by a third of their current size, while demand continues to increase.

The water shortages may especially impact U.S. agriculture. Irrigated agriculture often accounts for around 75% of the annual consumption of water from these basins. The authors point out, though, that this also makes agriculture a clear area for reducing water use. Up to 96 fresh water basins are projected to face shortages. Reducing water use for irrigation by just 2% could prevent shortages in a third of these basins. For others, though, the reduction must be greater – often over 30%. The authors say it’s unlikely that agriculture will be the only facet of society to adapt. Still, the agricultural sector “is likely to face serious challenges.” Accordingly, the findings raise concerns about both future water security and food security in the U.S.

Managing Correspondent: Jordan Wilkerson

Original Report: Adaptation to Future Water Shortages in the United States Caused by Population Growth and Climate Change. Earth’s Future

Other Media Coverage: Fortune

Related SITN Article: Thirsty Plants: Can plants be genetically modified to need less water?

Image Credit: Pixabay

8 thoughts on “Future Widespread Water Shortage Likely in U.S.

    1. It’s much worse than this. Look into it further. Tuscon is actually using sewage water and farmers are using more not less. If they don’t starvation will start

    2. Considering that the hamburger you might choose for your lunch tomorrow will require 2100 litres of water compared to a veggie burger (like the Beyond Meat burger) only uses 160 litres of water, right there is a place for everyone to start.

      Meat and dairy are the most water intensive ways to get your food. Make changes there and you’re heading in the right direction if you’re really concerned.

  1. Try electrolysis to make 02 and H, an oxygen pump for the planet ocean side, with h energy for all, the h will power further elecktrolysis, which will pump (Union pipeline) from the Atlantic to all of the US soft water to every home. Every home will have a small distiller at the sink for drnking water (save on disinfectant) and if the water is too soft they will buy a water de-softener. The h engine will power therml or membrne desal. No more chity water, no more recycling toilet deoderant and mop water

  2. So why are we continuing to allow a tsunami of immigrants to flood into the country? This will clearly exacerbate the problem. Oh I know why. It’s because the immigrants are non-white and stopping them from depleting our water supply is of course “racist” as all non-whites anywhere in the world are entitled to America’s resources.

    1. Most water scarcity problems in Mexico come from US agriculture industries relying on the water in Mexico. For example, the avocado industry that feeds the United State’s avocado craze. Avocado AG is mostly in Mexico and the water they use to irrigate them is the water that supplies communities around the area. These communities are left with water scarcity and they must wait a week to get their delivery of water. So some of these people have to leave to places where there is water.

  3. Hi Jordan,
    What will be impact of Covid-19 on water scarcity as industrial use of water has become limited in last 2 months. Can you please shed some light on that. Thank you

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