$300 Billion for Water in the USA have we reached the tipping point!

As we shower, shave, bathe, cook and drink the ubiquitous resource the inhabitants of the world are rapidly approaching an era of water shortages never before seen by modern man. It is estimated that it will cost over $300 billion dollars just to upgrade the piping systems that handle this most precious resource over the next 30 years.

“The last century was the century of water engineering. The next century is going to have to be the century of water efficiency”, stated Barry Nelson, a senior policy analyst with the Natural Resources Defense Council. This sentiment is reinforced by Randy Brown a Pompano Beach, Florida utilities director, “Unfortunately, there’s just not going to be any more cheap water”.

In a report from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, a United Nations network of scientists, said this year that by 2050 up to 2 billion people worldwide could be facing major water shortages.

The U.S. used more than 148 trillion gallons of water in 2000, the latest figures available from the U.S. Geological Survey. That includes residential, commercial, agriculture, manufacturing and every other use with almost 500,000 gallons per person.

As a recent drought in Georgia continues and the state of Florida doesn’t have nearly enough water for its expected population boom conditions are only worsening. This is coupled with the fact that the Great Lakes are shrinking and the reservoirs of upstate New York have dropped to record lows. In the western United States the snow pack of the Sierra Nevada is melting more rapidly and faster each year.

Recent United States governmental projects also report that at least 36 states will face water shortages within five years because of a combination of rising temperatures, drought, and population growth, urban sprawl, waste and excess.

In another part of the globe our Australian neighbors are suffering from a 30-year dry spell and this is coupled with population growth in urban centers of sub-Saharan Africa which is straining their resources as well. In Asia which contains 60% of the world’s population it only contains approximately 30% of the need freshwater.

In the costal states of California and Florida the water crisis will only worsen as well not only from increased demand, but also from rising temperatures that are causing glaciers to melt and sea levels to rise. Higher temperatures mean more water lost to evaporation. And rising seas could push saltwater into underground sources of freshwater.

Florida which at one time had too much water is now faced with growing shortages because of manmade interference. By exploiting the landscape via the use of dikes, dams and the diversion of water the developers have been allowed to turn what were once swamps into cities thirsting for more water.

With the accompanying unabated development across the country and in Florida without regards to future pitfalls there is little land left over to store water which was once gained during the rainy seasons. There is now little land left to store water during wet rainy seasons, and so much of the landscape has been paved over that water can no longer penetrate the ground in some places to recharge the depleted aquifers as they did in the past.

In Florida as a byproduct of over-development and by the use of concrete and pavement this once water filled state has flushed millions of gallons of water into the ocean to prevent flooding as the countryside is unable to absorb the needed rainfall. Even treated wastewater which constitutes hundreds of billions of gallons of water which could be used for irrigation, is being piped into the Atlantic Ocean.

Even thought Florida has the distinction of leading the nation in water reuse by reclaiming some 240 billion gallons annually the state is still in dire need of more water or at the least more efficient use of the invaluable resource.

The state of Florida already uses approximately 2.4 trillion gallons of water a year. The projections are that by 2025, the population will have increased by over 34% from about 18 million to more than 24 million people, pushing annual demand for water to nearly 3.3 trillion gallons.


Across the United States desalination plants have been built using available technology and their numbers have surpassed more than one thousand. One plant in Florida, the Tampa Bay Seawater Desalination Plant is producing about 25 million gallons a day of fresh drinking water, about 10 percent of that area’s demand. At a cost of $158 million dollars this facility is the largest plant of its kind in North America.

In California almost 23 trillion gallons of water are used annually and most of this comes from Sierra Nevada which relies on the annual snowmelt. However the recent climate changed is producing less and less water and is even melting prematurely which is placing the state in further peril.

The once mighty Colorado River which provides freshwater to seven states in the West will probably become a less abundant resource as global warming shrinks its flow according to experts in the field. The state is also looking towards desalination plants to attempt to address the issue and they are hoping the plants could produce 20% of their needs for fresh drinking water in the future.

Across the globe it is estimated that the people of dozens of poor African and Asian countries could face starvation in the next 30 years, according to the first-ever quantitative analysis of water resources and a country’s capability to grow food. In the July 15 issue of ES&T (pp 3048–3054), scientists at the Swiss Institute for Environmental Science & Technology (EAWAG) introduce a statistical model that correlates renewable water resources with a country’s cereal grain imports. They find that although many countries have become more efficient at using their freshwater for agriculture, 35 countries in this region lack enough water to feed their expanding populations without food imports by the year 2030.

In the far away country of China Severe water shortages and declining water quality are plaguing northern China as rapid development of industrial and agricultural production takes place in areas of high population density. The rates of water bourne disease and death is already increasing in China from their polluted water supplies as the populace attempts to fufill their needs for this basic necessity.

The future of this world is becoming more direr for its future inhabitants as global warming raises the specter of widespread famine and water wars in the coming years. Over $300 billion is needed just to address the needs of the water systems of the United States while it is estimated that the current Middle Eastern conflicts compliments of the Bush administration will exceed over $2.4 Trillion dollars.

Even if we were to dismiss global warming the world’s population will still strain the planets capabilities to provide the most basic and important resource Water. While I do not believe that the US population should live in an isolationist society is it not a plausible argument that $2.4 Trillion dollars could be spent on more deserving and needed goals that would benefit all mankind.

Those that dismiss this coming catastrophe will not have to live in this world as wars are waged for water. However their children and loved ones will, as the government of the United States of America attempts to control the Middle East and its vast oil supplies and plunges its citizens into a debt that they will never be able to repay is it really worth it?

As you look upon your loved ones and ponder their future, what future will they have? The children of this country will be buried in debt and starving for a basic necessity we take for granted in the form of water. Wars will be waged and millions will die and suffer painfully slow deaths, could we have spent over $2.4 Trillion dollars to prevent this coming calamity?

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