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Peak water in the American West

In an excellent blog on scienceblog.com, Peter Gleick argues that the plethora of stories of droughts, dropping reservoir levels and irrational water engineering projects point to the need to:

  • acknowledge that we’ve reached peak water in the American west. We have promised more water to users than nature provides. Until demand and supply are brought back into balance, groundwater levels will continue to drop and our rivers will continue to run dry, destroying natural ecosystems.
  • Agree that there are limits to new supply and that we must turn to the demand side of the problem. This means figuring out how to use water more efficiently and productively, and thinking about moving some water-intensive activities and products to more water-abundant regions. Maybe it is time to grow less rice, alfalfa, cotton, and pasture with flood irrigation. It is past time to retire the green lawn as an acceptable landscape option in arid climates. All toilets and washing machines should be water- and energy-efficient.
  • Stop assuming that the water available for future use is the same as in the past. Climate change ensures that it won’t be, but until politicians start to heed the warnings of climate scientists and the on-the-ground evidence of the current water situation, our water problems in the west, and elsewhere, will worsen.

Read the full blog here: http://scienceblogs.com/significantfigures/index.php/2013/08/19/peak-water-in-the-american-west/
Photo by flickr user (cc) TimPearce.

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