There is simply no commodity on the planet more precious than water. Without it, life as we know it cannot exist. The human body can go without water for only three days at the most before death occurs.
Aside from the essential survival aspects, we also depend on water for many other things, such as bathing, watering our lawns and gardens, washing our clothes, and a number of other daily activities. Everyone knows this, but access to clean water is something most of us have taken for granted.
However, that is beginning to change, particularly in the Southwest region of the United States, where a drought period that has lasted for more than a decade has become a massive problem. In California, Nevada and Arizona in particular, millions of people are being affected. Experts say that the problem will only worsen over the coming years.
Scientists say that the current drought period is the worst the region has endured in more than 1,200 years. The 20th century was the wettest in more than 1,000 years, but now it’s a completely different story. While the sprawling metropolitan areas in the region such as Las Vegas, Phoenix and Los Angeles were expanding during the last century, no one foresaw the dangerous crisis these cities are now facing.
More than 40 million people in the Southwest, including those in southern California, depend on the water that flows into Nevada’s Lake Mead from the Colorado River. Lake Mead was formed when the Hoover Dam was built in the 1930s, and the lake’s water levels are now at their lowest since the dam was created.
In California, mandatory water restrictions are already in effect, but these restrictions are far from being enough to fix the state’s water crisis. If the water levels in Lake Mead continue to drop — a very likely scenario — the water restrictions will be even more widespread, and it’s entirely possible that millions of people will eventually be forced to relocate.
The problem is only going to get worse
The current drought period has been termed “the greatest water crisis in the history of the United States,” and we are now approaching “megadrought” status, according to scientists.
In the hardest-hit areas of California, there have already been numerous reports of water theft. Some of these incidents have involved water theft on a large scale, such as in the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta, but there have also been many cases of neighbors stealing water from each other.
These water theft incidents are likely to increase, and the collective mood is likely to get even uglier in the very near future. “Water wars” have begun to erupt between landowners and authorities, farmers and other farmers, and even among ordinary citizens. It seems there is already a black market for stolen water.
As any student of human history knows, when sheer survival is at stake and people become desperate, anything can happen. No one can accurately predict where this will lead, but the scariest aspect is that very little can be done at this point to fix the problem.
Water rationing is not enough. In fact, more and more water is being pumped from underground aquifers not only in the southwestern states but throughout the Midwest and Texas as well.
These precious aquifers will soon be gone if we continue depleting them. What will happen then?
One thing is certain: the days of taking our water supplies for granted are over. We now need to focus our efforts on conserving the water we have left at home and on the larger scale.
Wasting precious water is a luxury we can no longer afford.