Water Is Not An Unlimited Resource

Meteorologist Dr. Kevin Levey examines US cities that are at risk of running out of water.

Wednesday, April 18, 2018 5:10:00 AM -05:00

Cape Town, South Africa was slated to run out of water as early as this week. “Day Zero” may have been averted by some good early fall rains and with the help of Cape Town residents who are currently under water rations, limited to using just 13 gallons per person, per day. However, the taps may still yet run dry if the winter rains fail this winter as they did last year. If you think this can’t happen in the United States, you’re dead wrong. It’s happened before. Hundreds of wells ran dry in East Porterville, near Bakersfield, California, in 2014. Trucks bussed bottled water to residents forcing them to go without running water until late 2016, when a nearby town extended its water supply system.

Taps are set to run dry all over the world, due to population booms, pollution disasters, and climate change. Here are just a few of the most populated cities at risk of water shortages in the near future in the US. Some of the cities may surprise you, others not.

1: Los Angeles, California

LA’s sheer size and population creates a large demand on water resources. L.A. imports an even bigger portion of its water from the Colorado River Basin every day. Using this river as a source poses a problem for many other U.S. cities, as you’ll read soon.

2. Phoenix, Arizona

Water scarcity could come as soon as 2019, sources say, once the water level in Lake Mead on the Colorado River drops to dangerous levels. This will trigger mandatory cutbacks in water diversions from the reservoir and severe shortages for almost all of Arizona, but especially Phoenix.

3. Las Vegas, Nevada

Not only do shortages on the Colorado River spell disaster for cities like Los Angles and Phoenix, but also for Las Vegas. Water shortages have forced residents to fund a multi-million-dollar water pump upgrade, and they were fortunate to dodge the bullet in 2017 and 2018, but delays in the project may leave thousands of residents without water in only a few years.

4. Miami, Florida

It’s not only cities in the dry western states that are facing potential water shortages, a few cites on the east coast area also facing the same issues. Even though Miami receives abundant rainfall, it is facing rising sea levels that threaten to contaminate the freshwater supply. Almost 90% of the drinking water in south Florida pours through aquifers. Miami sits on a bed of porous limestone that can contaminate these drinking water wells — something it’s already done in nearby city Hallandale Beach. Saltwater has reached five of the eight freshwater wells the city’s 40,000 residents draw from.

5. Denver, Colorado

Denver is also at risk of water shortages owing to ongoing high demand and low supply. Denver is one of the faster-growing cities in the USA and is expected to double its population by 2050. This could spell disaster for residents who rely on water from the ever-shrinking Colorado River.

6. El Paso, Texas

El Paso has been affected by changes the Rio Grande River which is currently at its lowest level in 70 years. This city is therefore at a “high-risk” for water shortages and water vulnerability owing to the fact that millions rely on water from the Rio Grande River.

7. Lincoln, Nebraska

In 2012, an extreme drought left the Platte River levels at dangerously low levels, but residents continued to use water at unprecedented rates. This, combined with continually high temperatures, dry weather, and heavy agricultural needs make experts believe Lincoln, Nebraska is at high risk of a water shortage moving forward. The state is a leading producer of corn, soybeans, wheat, and hay, so they need the H2O.

8. Atlanta, Georgia

A crippling drought 10 years ago left Georgia’s West Point Lake, a 3,400-square-mile reservoir outside of Atlanta nearly empty. Even with attempts to upgrade the sewer system, the city has not recovered from that drought. Further complicating matters is the ongoing water dispute between Georgia with Alabama and Florida concerning water supply, which has caused experts to fear that Atlanta will run out of water sooner than later.

9. San Francisco, California

It’s bad enough with one major city in California on the “water supply” endangered list, but San Francisco is the second major metropolitan area also on this list. One of California’s biggest problems is that it relies too heavily on the weather for its supply of water. Drought over California over the last decade has placed severe stress on the water supply, both for agriculture and urban areas like San Francisco which is seeing no decline in its booming population growth.

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