Over the last couple of decades, California has been dealing with serious drought problems, which besides affecting the fish supply and the lives of many native species, as well as the entire ecosystem, has also affected the reserves of fresh drinking water.
But California isn’t the only place where this is a growing issue.
Most of west America is dealing with this problem, and having limited water supplies is on the verge of becoming a new normal. Since carbon emissions have disrupted the balance in the ecosystem, the evaporations happen more quickly and there is not enough rainfall to replenish what has been lost, and the U.S. is now facing a scary future where there is no telling of who will be provided with enough water to drink and who will be in a most unenviable position.
Besides the overwhelming drought hitting the west and limiting water availability, there has also been a rise in population, which means more people are in danger of ending up with very little water to drink. Also, future generations are likely to be forced to deal with the same problem, as it seems that the water shortage will not be getting any better any time soon.
This is why people from all fields should unite and think critically in order to come up with a constructive solution that will deal with the drought problem effectively.
One of the most important questions asked at a conference held this year at the University of California Davis, where experts in climate science, water policy, history and hydrology participated, was who will be affected first when taps dry up, as well as how will it be decided where and when to turn the tap off.
Experts’ answers varied, which shows how complex this question really is.
According to Peter Moyle, a professor of wildlife, fish and conservation biology at the University of California Davis, the most affected will be the native fish, and therefore fishermen as well. An associate environmental planner and biologist at state transportation authority CalTrans believes that fish, as well as many other species that depend on fresh water supplies will be the most affected, including people.
When it comes to people ending up with less drinking water, the situation becomes even more complex.
Now it all comes down to economics. When water is free or cheap, everyone can have it, including the poor. When it becomes more expensive (when supplies get close to running out), and there are no mechanisms to provide water for those who can’t afford it, that becomes a big problem for the less fortunate. Of course, they just can’t be left to die of thirst, and the U.S. will have to provide funds for making mechanisms for those groups that can’t afford buying water. However, another problem is that the experts from the fields of economics and geography don’t entirely agree on which groups are the most vulnerable and where the money should be invested for water support.
Some, including a professor of agricultural and resource economics at UC Berkeley, David Sunding believes that the funds should go to farmers as they need it the most in order to water the land when there isn’t enough rain or underground water to do so. Without support cattle would die and the crops wouldn’t grow, which means there would also be a food shortage, besides the water shortage.
Others, such as Richard Howitt, a professor emeritus of agricultural and resource economics at UC Davis thinks that poor residents in urban areas should receive the financial support as they will not be able to buy water for themselves. It can’t be said that either choice is wrong, but how exclude one or the other?
This is why Louis Warren, a professor of western U.S. history at UC Davis said “There are no winners, so everybody loses”. Basically, every sector will have to get used to using less water so that nobody is left without any water at all. Scientists from different fields are still debating in order to reach the best solution and deal with this limited water availability the best way possible. Different fields are getting ready to use their knowledge and help out, which is absolutely necessary, because the situation “is not going to spare anybody”, as the former head of the Southern Nevada Water Authority Pat Mulroy puts it.