The 2021 water year ends on September30, and it was another hot, dry year in the western US, with almost the entire region in drought. Reservoirs vital for farms, communities and hydropower have fallen to dangerous lows.
The biggest blow came in August, when the USgovernment issued its first ever water shortage declaration for the Colorado River, triggering water use restrictions.
In response, farmers and cities across the Southwest are now finding new, often unsustainable ways to meet their future water needs. Las Vegas opened a lower-elevation tunnel to Lake Mead, a Colorado River reservoir where water levels reached unprecedented lows at 35% of capacity. Farmers are ratcheting up groundwater pumping. Officials in Arizona, which will lose nearly one-fifth of its river water allotment under the new restrictions, even floated the idea of piping water hundreds of miles from the Mississippi River.
These strategies conceal a more fundamental problem: the unchecked growth of water consumption. The Southwest is in an anthropogenic drought created by the combination of natural water variability, climate change and human activities that continuously widen the water supply-demand gap.
In the long run, this can lead to water bankruptcy, meaning water demand invariably exceeds the supply. Trying to manage this by cranking up water supply is destined to fail.
More than 7,000 miles away, Iran is grappling with water problems that are similar to the USSouthwests but more severe. One of the driest years in the past five decades, on the back of several decades of mismanaged water resources, brought warnings of water conflicts between Iranian provinces this year.
As environmental engineers and scientists one of us is also a former deputy head of Irans Department of Environment weve closely studied the water challenges in both drought-prone regions. We believe past mistakes in the USand Iran offer important lessons for future plans in the USSouthwest and other regions increasingly experiencing drought and water shortages.
As the supply of water from the Colorado River diminishes, Southwest farmers are putting more straws into already declining groundwater that accumulated over thousands to millions of years. But that is a short-term, unsustainable solution that has been tried across the USand around the globe with major consequences. The High Plains Aquifer and Californias Central Valley are just two examples.
Iran offers a case study in what can go wrong with that approach, as our research shows. The country nearly doubled its groundwater extraction points between 2002 and 2015 in an attempt to support a growing agricultural industry, which drained aquifers to depletion. As its water tables drastically declined, the groundwaters salinity increased in aquifers to levels that may no longer be readily suitable for agriculture.
As water-filled pores in the soil are drained, the weight of the overlying ground compresses them, causing the aquifers to lose their water holding capacity and accelerating land subsidence. Irans capital, Tehran, with more than 13mn residents, subsided more than 12 feet (3.7m) between 2003 and 2017. Similarly, some areas of California are sinking at a rate of up to 1 foot (0.3m) each year.
Another proposal in the Southwest has been to pipe in water from elsewhere. In May, the Arizona legislature urged Congress to initiate a feasibility study to bring Mississippi River water to replenish the Colorado River. But that, too, has been tried.
In Iran, multiple interbasin water transfer projects doubled the flow of the Zayandeh Rud, a river in the arid central part of the country. The inflow of water supported unsustainable growth, creating demand without enough water to support it. In dry years now, no one has enough water. Many people in Khuzestan the region supplying water to central Iran lost their livelihood as their farms dried out, wetlands vanished, and livestock died of thirst. People in central Iran also lost crops to the drought as incoming water was cut. Both regions saw protests turn violent this year.
California diverted water from the Eastern Sierra Nevada to support Los Angeles growth in the early 1900s, turning the once prosperous Owens Lake Valley into a dust bowl. Costs of mitigating dust storms there now exceed $2bn. Meanwhile, California needs more infrastructure and investment to meet its water demand.
Another project, the California Aqueduct, was constructed in the 1960s to transfer water from the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta in Northern California to the Central Valley and southern parts of the state to support agriculture and some urban demand. This also did not close the water demand-supply gap, and it pushed economically and culturally important native fish species and ecological systems in the delta to the point of collapse.
As the continued influx of population into the USSouthwest raises water demand in the face of shrinking water supply, we have to wonder whether the Southwest is heading toward water bankruptcy.
While there is no easy solution, a number of actions are possible.
First, recognise that water shortages cannot be mitigated only by increasing water supply its also important to manage water demand.
There is great potential for water savings through efficient irrigation and precision agriculture systems, which could keep agriculture viable in the region.
Cities can save water by curbing outdoor water losses and excess water use, such as on ornamental lawns. Californians successfully reduced their water demand by more than 20% between 2015 and 2017 in response to severe drought conditions. Replanting urban landscapes with native drought-tolerant vegetation can help conserve water.
On the supply side, communities can consider nontraditional water sources, water recycling and reuse in all sectors of the economy, and routing runoff and floodwaters to recharge groundwater aquifers.
There are also emerging technological solutions that could boost water resources in some regions, including fog water collection, which uses sheets of mesh to capture moisture from fog, and desalination plants that turn seawater and saline groundwater into drinking water. One new desalination plant planned for Huntington Beach, California, is awaiting final approval. Environmental consequences of these measures, however, should be carefully considered.
The Southwest monsoon returned this summer after a record dry previous year and a half in the region, but it wasnt enough to end the drought there. Forecasts now suggest a high chance that a La Nina pattern will develop over the winter, meaning Southwest is likely in for another drier-than-normal start to 2022.
Iran is already in water bankruptcy, with demand exceeding supply. It will take a lot more than a wet year to alleviate its water shortages.
Mojtaba Sadegh, Assistant Professor of Civil Engineering, Boise State University; Ali Mirchi, Assistant Professor of Water Resources Engineering, Oklahoma State University; Amir AghaKouchak, Professor of Civil & Environmental Engineering, University of California, Irvine, and Kaveh Madani, Visiting Fellow, Yale University
This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons licence. Read the original article.
Continue reading here:
- Judge Approves Deal to Resolve Puerto Rico Bankruptcy - The New York Times - January 19th, 2022
- When to apply for a credit card after bankruptcy - Bankrate.com - January 19th, 2022
- ANALYSIS: Three Skills Bankruptcy Associates Need to Stand Out - Bloomberg Law - January 19th, 2022
- Judge rejects legal shield in bankruptcy of former Ann Taylor parent - Reuters - January 19th, 2022
- Italy's Moby Files US Bankruptcy in Ongoing Reorganization Battle - The Maritime Executive - January 19th, 2022
- Delaware Bankruptcy Court Rules That Unsecured Creditors Of A Solvent Debtor Are Entitled To Post-Petition Interest At The Federal Judgment Rate, Not... - January 19th, 2022
- Famous Anthony's owners filing for bankruptcy in wake of hepatitis A outbreak - Food Safety News - January 11th, 2022
- Purdue Pharma can appeal rejection of bankruptcy plan - Reuters - January 11th, 2022
- This Beloved Seafood Chain Is Making a Comeback After Bankruptcy Eat This Not That - Eat This, Not That - January 11th, 2022
- Puerto Rico To Get Bankruptcy OK With Plan Modifications - Law360 - January 11th, 2022
- Bankruptcy Court Holds Arbitration Clause Unenforceable When Underlying Contract Is Rejected Pursuant to Section 365 of the Bankruptcy Code - Lexology - January 11th, 2022
- COMPLIANCE WITH OFFICIAL BANKRUPTCY FORM 105 SATISFIES ASHCROFT V. IQBAL - JD Supra - January 11th, 2022
- The Hong Kong approach where debtors lodge a petition for their own bankruptcy - how to prevent abuse of process - JD Supra - January 11th, 2022
- Corporate Bankruptcy Wave Turns to Dust, Defying Expectations - Bloomberg Law - January 7th, 2022
- Bowlski's will keep on rolling in El Jebel through bankruptcy - The Aspen Times - January 7th, 2022
- The Inside Story Of How Jessica Simpson Launched, Sold Then Re-Acquired Her Billion Dollar Retail Empire From Bankruptcy - Celebrity Net Worth - January 7th, 2022
- The Law Amending The Enforcement And Bankruptcy Law And Certain Laws Is Published - Insolvency/Bankruptcy/Re-structuring - Turkey - Mondaq News Alerts - January 7th, 2022
- $2000 an hour for a bankruptcy lawyer? 2022 could be the year - Reuters - January 3rd, 2022
- Jake Paul: 2022 goals include saving Mayweather Promotions from bankruptcy, heal back from carrying the sp - MMA Fighting - January 3rd, 2022
- Trustee in Tomaszewski bankruptcy seeks order to obtain tax refunds - The Batavian - January 3rd, 2022
- I Recently Received A Bankruptcy Discharge But Have Fallen Behind On My House Payments And Am Facing Foreclosure, Is There Anything I Can Do? -... - January 3rd, 2022
- Avoiding Technical Bankruptcy: a Whole-Organization Perspective on Technical Debt - InfoQ.com - December 25th, 2021
- Sean 'Diddy' Combs approved to buy fashion line out of bankruptcy - Reuters - December 25th, 2021
- Red River bankruptcy hearing delayed in Texas court - WANE - December 25th, 2021
- Hello Living staves off foreclosure on East Flatbush project, for now - The Real Deal - December 25th, 2021
- IndyBar: Thank You, US Bankruptcy Court for the Southern District of Indiana Pro Bono Volunteers! - Indiana Lawyer - December 25th, 2021
- These are the measures that transporters have agreed to avoid bankruptcy in the sector - Market Research Telecast - December 19th, 2021
- US judge annuls pharmaceutical company Purdue's bankruptcy agreement - La Prensa Latina - December 17th, 2021
- Litigation Funding In Bankruptcy And Distressed Situations - Above the LawAbove the Law - Above the Law - December 17th, 2021
- Bradleys Bankruptcy Basics: The Automatic Stay and the Why Behind the Warnings: What Happens Once a Debtor Files for Bankruptcy? - JD Supra - December 17th, 2021
- Healthcare Organizations and Bankruptcy: Is Telemedicine the Savior? - JD Supra - December 17th, 2021
- Pandemic drives Carlson family out of the business where they made a fortune - Minneapolis Star Tribune - December 17th, 2021
- Bankruptcy Matters: The New Pandemic Wave is Coming - JD Supra - December 17th, 2021
- Boy Scouts of America bankruptcy updates: What we know about settlements, payouts, more - USA TODAY - December 15th, 2021
- The Automatic Stay and Debtors Filing for Bankruptcy - The National Law Review - December 15th, 2021
- Directors Duties: a stark reality following the recent Marka Ruling and subsequent amendments to the UAE Bankruptcy Law - JD Supra - December 15th, 2021
- Matt Collard: Because of poor spending decisions town is heading toward bankruptcy - Conway Daily Sun - December 15th, 2021
- This Week At The Ninth: Telescopes And Tax Returns - Insolvency/Bankruptcy/Re-structuring - United States - Mondaq News Alerts - December 15th, 2021
- Fraud allegation in Intelsat bankruptcy | - Advanced Television - December 13th, 2021
- Protecting creditors' administrative claims in Chapter 11 bankruptcy cases - Reuters - December 13th, 2021
- Sri Lanka : Country is being pushed towards bankruptcy - Eran - Colombo Page - December 13th, 2021
- Elizabeth Warren Wants to Know How Hertz Went From Bankruptcy to Buybacks in Six Months - The New Republic - December 13th, 2021
- IBBI to make panel of professionals to speed up bankruptcy process - Livemint - December 3rd, 2021
- RBI moves NCLT Mumbai for bankruptcy proceedings against Reliance Capital - Business Standard - December 3rd, 2021
- Can Johnson & Johnson put the taint of scandal behind it? - The Economist - December 3rd, 2021
- Bankruptcy Filings | United States Courts - November 28th, 2021
- More colleges face bankruptcy even as top schools experience record wealth - CNBC - November 28th, 2021
- Boy Scouts will lobby on bill to curb tactics used in bankruptcy proceedings - Politico - November 28th, 2021
- Man who sought to conceal interest in 5m Dalkey property has bankruptcy extended - The Irish Times - November 28th, 2021
- Evergrande's bankruptcy still just a matter of time - Asia Times - November 28th, 2021
- TfL crisis latest: entire Tube line may have to close and bankruptcy notice issued - Evening Standard - November 28th, 2021
- Where Westlife are now from breakup and bankruptcy to successful comeback - Birmingham Live - November 28th, 2021
- Avianca to reoffer jobs to around 100 pilots amid restructuring - Reuters - November 28th, 2021
- Trainer hit with bankruptcy and forced to muck out completes remarkable comeback with Cheltenham and... - The Sun - November 28th, 2021
- Katie Price swerves final bankruptcy hearing AGAIN as court date is pushed back to February 2022... - The Sun - November 23rd, 2021
- Steel Magnate Ordered To Produce Docs In Bankruptcy Row - Law360 - November 23rd, 2021
- The new extension of the bankruptcy moratorium increases the risk of judicial collapse and zombie companies - Central Valley Business Journal - November 23rd, 2021
- Interjet Appoints A New CEO What Does It Mean For The Carrier? - Simple Flying - November 23rd, 2021
- Assured MSP for 23 crops will drive the country to bankruptcy: SC panel member Anil Ghanwat - Economic Times - November 23rd, 2021
- Initiation of the CIRP process under the Insolvency and Bankruptcy Code - Lexology - November 23rd, 2021
- Opinion: In appreciation of Neil E. Harl making farm credit work for everybody - Ames Tribune - November 23rd, 2021
- Riverbed Technologies files for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection following pandemic 'headwinds' - The Register - November 19th, 2021
- Czech Airlines Reorganization Will Not Turn Into Bankruptcy - Simple Flying - November 19th, 2021
- Is Nash Engineering the Latest Company Bankrupted by Asbestos Litigation? - JD Supra - November 19th, 2021
- MONTENEGRO - The Bill on amendments of the Bankruptcy Law - Lexology - November 19th, 2021
- Six-year fight to end with Williamsburg bankruptcy sale - The Real Deal - November 17th, 2021
- CWT Emerges From Bankruptcy With $100 Million to Invest in Business Travel Tech - Skift - November 17th, 2021
- NBA star Antoine Walker bounced back from bankruptcy in two years. Here's his advice for rebuilding finances - CNBC - November 17th, 2021
- The Boy Scouts Are Abusing the Bankruptcy System - Bloomberg Law - November 17th, 2021
- Another Bankruptcy Court Joins the Debate on the Validity of Bankruptcy Blocking Restrictions - JD Supra - November 17th, 2021
- Best Credit Cards After Bankruptcy | The Ascent - Motley Fool - November 17th, 2021
- Remington Arms returns from bankruptcy and moves to Georgia - We Are The Mighty - November 17th, 2021
- Hike in deaths by suicide in 2020 due to main causes of poverty, bankruptcy, and unemployment - thepolicytimes.com - November 17th, 2021
- Le Chateau's return from bankruptcy includes online sales, stores within stores - AM800 (iHeartRadio) - November 17th, 2021
- Jerry Funk: 28 years on the bankruptcy bench - Jacksonville Daily Record - November 5th, 2021
- Byton Close To Bankruptcy With Missed Payments, Production Halted - InsideEVs - November 5th, 2021
- Ingram and Debitetto on Bankruptcy and Compliance Programs | Health Care Compliance Association (HCCA) - JDSupra - JD Supra - November 5th, 2021
- Sixth Circuit Affirms Holding that Contributions to a 401(k) Plan Made More than Six Months Prior to Bankruptcy Cannot be Excluded from Disposable... - November 5th, 2021
- Bankruptcy Alert for New England States, NY, RI, and DE - The National Law Review - November 3rd, 2021
- The Purdue bankruptcy plan was approved. Where is the money? - STAT - November 3rd, 2021