Originally published at Moving Upward by CAPS Board Member Karen Shragg
The New York Times has some sobering news to report, the kind we cannot keep ignoring and the kind that technology will not solve. In its recent article, “In uncharted waters, America is using up its groundwater like there is no tomorrow,” their reporters did a deep dive into the current state of our country’s ground water supplies and came up empty. Their subtitle tells most of the rest of this disturbing story, “Overuse is draining and damaging aquifers nationwide.” Climate change is turning this bad news into an even worse nightmare in what they refer to as a “climate trap,” for our warming climate means that replenishing rainfalls can no longer be counted on to restore our life-giving aquifers.
The scientific measurements are in and with wells running dry in farm country and in our cities and with an understanding that water is the key to life, we must tell the rest of the story. Overuse is not because each person is being greedy, it is because we are already overpopulated relative to our water resources. We cannot solve this crisis by mandating shorter showers and regulating water-saving appliances. We cannot rely on the good will of the people to save water by giving up their lawns and xeriscaping around their homes. We must consider how many people will need this ever-diminishing essential resource in the future. To allow our country to keep growing in numbers is putting out the welcome mat to disaster.
We have outgrown our country’s water supplies and its time to embrace that honest truth and conduct ourselves accordingly. Allowing demand for water to increase is setting us up for a painful scarcity of wells that are running dry everywhere particularly in the desert southwest. When each person requires an average of 82 gallons of fresh water a day, adding more people to the US just makes no ecological or sociological sense.
We need to call for all political leaders to sound this alarm. America’s population of 335 million and is growing somewhat by birthrate but mostly by welcoming people from other countries into our soon-to-be water desert. This is not an alarm of hatred, it is an homage to sustainability using ground water as our yardstick.
When millions pour over our borders looking for opportunity, we need to advertise the real truth that soon it will be an opportunity to be thirsty. We can no longer claim that we are unaware of this situation, the New York Times has done the homework for us and we need to listen. We cannot afford to have our narrative remain stuck in a place that puts the need to fill jobs and help the desperate over the beleaguered future of our water supply. Unless we slow our growth to a trickle, with fairly written policies bent on conserving our remaining water resources, that is what we will see coming out of our faucets, just a trickle.