Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Climate Change and Drought in the U.S.

Over the past five years the entire southern half of the United States has had to deal with record droughts, though the circumstances have varied by region. The Southwest has experienced a nearly continuous dry spell. Texas went through one of its worst droughts on record in 2005 and 2006 only to be inundated this year; and the Southeast, which was drenched by a record hurricane season in 2005, is now experiencing an exceptional drought that has left many areas with only a few months of water supply on hand. All of these droughts are aggravated by the population growth that the sunbelt has experienced in recent decades.

Unlike the Southwest, which where a desert conditions have always required water planning, the Southeast now finds itself with dangerously low water supplies and no backup plan should the drought continue. Only Florida has passed a water plan. Atlanta's population has tripled since 1960; Georgia's water use increased by 30 percent between 1990 and 2000 alone--but its response to the worst drought on record has been surprisingly slow, typified by the plans at one outdoor theme park to build a 1.2 million gallon mountain of snow on a day when temperatures reached 81 degrees.

The American Southwest, more accustomed to dry conditions, has a better track record of water management; but this region finds changing weather patterns rendering their old assumptions obsolete.

The great dam and reservoir projects of the twentieth century gave the region a half century of surplus capacity, allowing agriculture to flourish and cities to expand. Now that surplus is gone--every drop is already allocated--and a persistent drought is threatening to deplete existing supplies. At the same time global warming is melting the mountain snow packs that provide a major source of fresh water.

Cities in the Southwest are now scrambling to find ways to conserve and reuse water supplies. The city of Aurora, Colorado has pioneered a method of installing wells downstream from their wastewater plants to retrieve the water, purify it and reuse it the first such closed loop in the U.S.

In the long run, however, there is little that can be done to support ever increasing populations in the U.S. South especially when one considers that the South lies astride the 30th parallel, where many of the Earth's deserts exist, due to air currents that rise at the equator and descend at the tropics of Cancer and Capricorn. Climate models project that these areas will get even dryer. What we are seeing now may be the leading edge of that trend. In any event, the rapid population growth of the sunbelt states is likely to hit a roadblock in the imminent future.

15 Comments:

At 7:05 PM, Blogger Anne Bradshaw said...

So glad I found this blog. All excellent messages. I've been blogging about water conservation on and off throughout this summer, but not many take it seriously enough.

Thanks for helping so many people understand.

 
At 10:14 AM, Blogger Riversider said...

Hi Tim,
wanted to bring our blog to your attention - we are a local group, fighting against environmentally disastrous development plans that would devastate our river's ecology:
http://save-the-ribble.blogspot.com

 
At 12:59 PM, Blogger Steve said...

Thanks for the great blog. All it takes is one look at the fountains at the Bellagio in Las Vegas to realize we have serious water management issues.

 
At 4:22 PM, Blogger Sasha said...

i live in the south and an aquaintance of mine was just allowed to open a carwash as a new business! it very much dissapoints me things like this are still happening and its taken a crisis for anyone to step up and do anything about it.

 
At 9:22 PM, Blogger justice:the honesty revolution said...

trust

 
At 10:30 AM, Blogger AJ's View said...

This is a great blog. Some of the posts were quite the eye openers. Kudos to you for writing about all these important issues.

 
At 12:27 PM, Blogger neleh said...

I am in North Carolina and we are in the heart of the drought. There is a lake here called Lake Norman and the boats at the dock were on dry land.I have never seen that before and quite frankly it is very scary to think that we could run out of water completely.

 
At 2:29 PM, Blogger DC said...

Have you seen the household water management technologies that came out of the Solar Decathlon this summer in DC? Universities from around the world worked to create sustainable environmentaly possitive technologies for the Home.

If everyone used all these techo9nologies we wouldn't have to worry about these problems!

Amanda

 
At 6:46 PM, Blogger Emily the Great and Terrible said...

Thank you for bringing a little light to an issue no one seems to take seriously. My area (Central Washington) struggles every year with drought issues. As the population increases, we have less water per person (duh!) and yet our consumption is increasing every year. I think American families need to be more conscious of how they use (and waste) this precious resource.

 
At 8:25 PM, Blogger Rogers Place said...

Where we live we have had more water shortage notices each year.

 
At 2:10 AM, Blogger redmonski said...

Abou Ben Adhem may your tribe increase!!! It will take decades to address the current global environmental concerns we're facing today. Thanks for your blog for making people understand. Because I think people blindsided by the gains from exploiting the environment should realize the cost associated with it.

 
At 6:13 PM, Blogger BrandonBN said...

I am a volunteer for SBI and I think my company definitely share your sentiments about bringing upon a new approach to attract people to the issue of business, environment, and sustainability.

If you can, please also reference my blog at http://sustainablebusinessinstitute.blogspot.com/.


Thanks,
Brandon

 
At 6:14 PM, Blogger BrandonBN said...

I am a volunteer for SBI and I think my company definitely share your sentiments about bringing upon a new approach to attract people to the issue of business, environment, and sustainability.

If you can, please also reference my blog at http://sustainablebusinessinstitute.blogspot.com/.


Thanks,
Brandon

 
At 6:29 AM, Blogger Four Man said...

I also want to thank you for this blog. What do you recommend for a person just awakening to this issue?

 
At 5:44 AM, Blogger nature=life said...

I feel that everyone should do their bit to help save the environment!
I found this website with loads of usefull items to help you with this.
Take a look and help make a difference: http://www.thegogreencompany.com/ishop/322/green-products-goods-services/shop-home.aspx?Guid=98e0458b81394d1888f9e0c991bda8b0

 

Post a Comment

<< Home