Although we often hear about water stress in the United States, the both surprising and alarming statistic is that we, as a country, rank 71st out of 189 countries with water stress: surprising because we feel that our water stresses are pretty bad; alarming because there are so many other places in the world far worse off than we are. World Resources Institute’s (WRI) Aqueduct Water Risk Atlas identifies “water stress” as a metric of how much water a country uses annually compared to how much is available. The United States uses around 20 percent of its available water and according to WRI that stress is rated low-medium. However, weather patterns, rainfall, snow melt and population all affect water stress levels and create variance across the country.
The southwest experiences the highest level of water stress,some locations rivaling the top water stressed countries in the world. For example, New Mexico, is ranked with“extremely high” water stress, having a water stress score, as determined by Aqueduct, of 4.26 on a 5-point scale which is the same as that of the 10th most stressed country (Arab Emirates).
According to a U.S. Geological Survey, “California uses the most water of any state, up to 9 percent of all withdrawals from the national supply.” We often hear about water shortages for the state in times of drought, but the resources available in the northern part of the state have countered the agricultural demands of the central part of the state and the population demands of the southern part of the state. This creates a delicate balance, keeping the state from reaching an even higher water stress level.
Florida also has higher levels of water stress than many areas in the cuntry. Though surrounded by water, much of it is beyond use due to the cost of desalination. The primary source of usable water for the state is the Floridan Aquifer, which is overextended, supplying water to 10 million people, both in the state and beyond. Other states experience water stress where water availability is limited but agriculture is a top industry, like Colorado and Nebraska.
While water stress is a real concern at times in certain locations, for the most part the US is in a better water position than many other parts of the world. WRI reminds us to be mindful of our water usage and to plan for long-term patterns of drought. Otherwise, we may use all of what is available.
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 Berkowitz, Bonnie, and Adrian Blanco. “Mapping the Strain on Our Water.” The Washington Post, WP Company, 6 Aug. 2019, www.washingtonpost.com/climate-environment/2019/08/06/mapping-strain-our-water/?noredirect=on.
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