How dry I am. Synopsis of water scarcity in the American West


Be grateful if you live in an area where water is not scarce. Seven states in the American West depend heavily on water from the Colorado River. It’s the most litigated river on the planet. And the water scarcity will unquestionably get worse.

Colorado River water is parcelled out based on the ancient Colorado River Compact of 1922. Upper Basin and Lower Basin states split the water equally. Until recently, Upper Basin states didn’t use all their water. Any excess went to the Lower Basin. Population growth and drought have changed that. The Upper Basin now longer has excess water. The Lower Basin is now drawing on its reserves in Lake Mead. Obviously they can not do this forever, one day, probably soon, their reserves will be gone.

Houston, we have a problem

One recent study forecasts that, under a changing climate, the yield of the Colorado will decline 10% by about 2030, and it will keep falling after that. Meanwhile, the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation expects the river’s 40 million water users to grow to between 49.3 million and 76.5 million by 2060.

Possible fixes minclude desalination, which is expensive and uses huge amounts of power. Did I mention that many sources of power require large amounts of water for cooling? Others have speculated about grabbing water from elsewhere, like via pipeline from the Great Lakes or other watersheds. A few years back the Great Lakes states heard about such a plan and immediately passed a compact which in effect said, over our dead bodies.