Monday, April 21, 2008

U.S. NEARS THE LIMITS OF ITS WATER SUPPLIES

VARGHESE, INSTITUTE FOR AGRICULTURE AND TRADE The water crisis is no longer something that we know about as affecting developing countries or their poor in particular. It is right here in our own backyard. Today, in many parts of the U.S. we are nearing the limits of our water supplies. . .

In many cities, consumers have been organizing and opposing the privatization of water utilities, because they have been concerned about affordability or deterioration in the quality of service. Environmental organizations and consumer activists have also been concerned about the socio-economic, health and environmental implications of ever increasing bottled water use. But for most of us living in the U.S., water is something we take for granted, available when you turn your tap on -- to brush your teeth, to take a shower, to wash your car, to water your lawn, and if you have your own swimming pool then, to fill that as well.

So it was with alarm that many of us read the story of Orme, a small town tucked away in the mountains of southern Tennessee that has become a recent symbol of the drought in the southeast. Orme has had to literally ration its water use, by collecting water for a few hours every day -- an everyday experience in most developing countries, but unusual for the U.S. This is an extreme experience from the southeast region that has been under a year long dry spell. In fact, the region's dry spell resulted in the city of Atlanta setting severe water use restrictions and three states, Georgia, Florida and Alabama, going to court over a water allocation dispute (settled in favor of Florida and Alabama early last month).. . .

In early February, it was reported that there is a 50 percent chance Lake Mead (on the Arizona/Nevada border), will be dry by 2021 if climate change continues as expected and future water use is not limited. Along with Lake Powell in Utah, Lake Mead helps provide water for more than 25 million people, and is a key source of water in the southwestern U.S. . .