Imagine a water-scarce world in the West—or at least in an increasingly hot and dry land. Climate change has triggered an extraordinary drought that lasted for decades, leading to alarmingly low reservoir water levels in the region, in some cases approaching or reaching record levels, which has increased the urgency of considering this issue.
According to Jay Lund, professor of civil and environmental engineering at the University of California, Davis, and head of the school, the hydrological changes in the west are even greater—on average, there are more flood years and drought years per year than anywhere else in the United States. The Watershed Science Center told ABC News. But a study published in the journal Science in 2020 warned that the West is coming out of an unusually wet period in its history and towards an unusually dry period that may last for several years or even hundreds of years.
California Governor Gavin Newsom said on Thursday that about 42% of California’s population is now in a state of drought emergency-except for Southern California and the San Francisco Bay Area, every part of the state is in a state of drought. If some of the most famous reservoirs in the west show any signs, residents may be in trouble.
Last month, the water level of Lake Mead, the country’s largest reservoir, hit a record low — a worrying idea considering that the west relies heavily on surface water. A similar situation occurred in the neighboring Lake Powell, the second-largest reservoir in the United States. John Bergren, a water resources policy analyst at the conservation organization Western Resource Advocate, told ABC News that Lake Mead and Lake Powell may never be filled with their previous normal levels. “Climate change is undoubtedly a challenge to the system,” Bergren said. As more water is diverted to more households, population growth also puts pressure on the system.
For many years, states and municipalities have been urging residents and in some cases enacted laws to protect the water supply. Some coastal areas, such as Santa Barbara, California, are installing desalination plants, while other inland areas, such as Arizona, are monitoring groundwater supplies as the water levels of major reservoirs and the Colorado River continue to drop. The Colorado River lies below the Glen Canyon Dam, behind which is a record low water level La.
Agriculture will be hit hardest According to data from the US Department of Agriculture, agricultural water consumption is the largest, accounting for 80% of water consumption in the United States, and more than 90% in many western states. If water is supplied in the west, it is likely to be the first victim of stress. According to the Salt Lake City Tribune, in Utah, up to 90% of the state’s water is used for agriculture. In Arizona, large amounts of water extracted from the Colorado River are used for agriculture.
Berggren said that, overall, 80% to 90% of the water in the Colorado River system is used for agriculture. Lund said that in California, about 80% of water is used for irrigated agriculture, but agriculture only accounts for about 5% of the economy. “This is a very valuable commodity. It is a very valuable part of many rural economies,” Lund said. “But if you don’t have water, you can’t maintain it in the long run.”
Berggren said that the first step in protection is to extract a small portion of water from agriculture and store it in reservoirs, rivers, or distribute it for municipal use. The agricultural industry on the West Coast has already felt the friction of water resources. According to the Associated Press, in the decades-long water rights conflict, farmers on the border between California and Oregon are fighting for dwindling supplies.
with information from: https://abcnews.go.com/US/west-solve-water-crisis-climate-change-continues-worse/story?id=78566068