With the firestorms that swept through Southern California having gotten under control, state officials are turning their attention to an even more serious, long-term problem that will most likely affect not only California but several states, including Arizona, New Mexico, Nevada, Nebraska, Texas, Utah, as well as Florida and Georgia.
The concern: water. Several states are facing severe water shortages, and experts now say the problem is not the result of just a “dry year.” Instead, it is the result of several occurrences that simply can no longer be ignored. These situations include:
- California and other western states have experienced one of the driest years in history. As of October 2007, San Diego has received less than 40 percent of its normal precipitation.
- Some experts believe we are entering an extended period of drought, similar to the 1930s “Dust Bowl,” which lasted for almost a dec-ade.
- The Sierra snow pack, which provides water for many California reservoirs, is the lowest it’s been in more than 20 years.
- The capacity of the two largest reservoirs filled by the Colorado River is only at 51 percent.
- Populations in these dry states are rapidly growing, yet their water infrastructure has failed to keep up with population growth. In California, for example, there have been no significant improvements in a long time.
“Although the entire country is taking environmental issues more seriously today than ever before, water conservation does not appear to be one of them,” says Klaus Reichardt, managing partner of Waterless Co.
For instance, as much as 60 percent of U.S. water is used just for outdoor landscaping, amounting to more than 19 trillion gallons of water annu-ally. “Much of this water is used in states that have dry, desert climates,” Reichardt says.
As much as 20 percent of the remaining water used in the U.S. is just for flushing toilets and urinals. Fortunately, new developments in water con-serving technologies are helping to reduce this demand.
A bill, now being considered in California that could affect the industry worldwide, would reduce the amount of water used to flush toilets from the current 1.6 gallons to 1.3 gallons per flush. And other states now require waterless urinals installed in all state buildings, which can save thousands of gallons of water annually.
“What we need now is greater realization that water must be used wisely and carefully, with people voluntarily cutting back on water use,” says Reichardt. “This, along with employing new water reducing technologies, will help us deal with the coming water challenges confronting us.”