water drought levels

Figure 1: Photo Credits: Bridget Bennet/Reuters

Drought is typically thought of as a temporary state of extreme dryness during which there is little precipitation. However, what the Western United States is currently experiencing is not simply a temporary dry period, but aridification. This region of the world has heated up by 2 degrees over the last century, making this part of the world one of the areas the most affected by climate change. The temperature has been increasing constantly, and that it will continue to do so is predictable. What is more difficult to foresee, is how this augmentation affects precipitations patterns, with some areas becoming more tropical and others suffering from a process of aridification as is the case in the Western United States.

This process puts and enormous strain on the water industry, already taxed by the overpopulation of regions that did not have enough water to support their populations in the early 1900’s, let alone today. By the early years of the 20th century, Los Angeles had hit a population ceiling of a couple hundred thousand individuals. Water was supplied by the Los Angeles River, but the single river, seasonal in nature, was not enough to support the large metropolis that it has become. However, the allure of warm whether and sunshine all year round did not cease to attract people from other parts of the country, despite the lack of water. This led to the first of many elaborate schemes the undertaking of massive construction projects to supply the city with the water so vital for its growth.

 

drought water levels dam

Figure 2: Photo Credits: 8 news NOW

Right now, the city is dependant on water from the Colorado River, Lake Mead, Northern California via the California aqueduct, as well as the Owens River in the Sierra Nevada.  Despite all these diverse sources of water, the increases of the populations both of Los Angeles as well as the areas from which the water is sourced, i.e. Northern California, the communities that pull from the Colorado River, etc., has put more and more strain on the system. With the decreasing quantities of precipitation, the disaster is looming both for the human populations as well as for the environment.

 

The Drought: Too late? Or are there solutions?

There are no simple solutions to this large and complex problem. Many of the rapidly drying lakes in the west are the economic life blood of towns dependant on the tourism of boaters, fishermen, and sunseekers. Fish are seeing their environments threatened by the receding lakes and the dryness poses problems for many animals living in the in these regions as creeks and rivers that used to run all year round are becoming dry during the summer months. Experts are torn over the severity of the situation. Is it dire with no hope of reversal? Or is it preoccupying without yet being a true crisis? In general, the majority of the data and researchers suggest that we are closer to a crisis than not. However, this does not mean that it is necessarily too late to act and help. Everyone can do his part, and these small savings do add up, even while they may seem insignificant on an individual level. For more information on how individuals can make a difference saving water, and how to be more water friendly, please refer to our article linked here.

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