Water Crisis in the West

December 9, 2011 • Volume 21, Issue 43
Do shortages imperil the region's growth?
By Peter Katel


A symbol of the water-scarcity problems affecting California and the Southwest (Getty Images/David McNew)
Pilings from a long-gone pier rise last July 7 from California's disappearing Salton Sea, a symbol of the water-scarcity problems affecting California and the Southwest. (Getty Images/David McNew)

Across the West, water is becoming an endangered resource as a warming climate adds new stress to an already strained supply. Drought is devastating Texas; flows of the Colorado River — vital to a seven-state region — have become more uncertain; and important underground aquifers are being depleted in several states. As concern about shortages grows, conflicts among housing developers, farmers and environmentalists are increasing. Agriculture is in the spotlight because it accounts for about 80 percent of Western water consumption. Farmers say they're far more careful about conservation than many suburban residents, with their swimming pools and thirsty lawns. Water conflicts go back a long way in the nation's most arid region. But a growing number of Western water-policy experts say cooperation, compromise and conservation offer the only practical approaches to cope with rising demands on the region's water supply.

ISSUE TRACKER for Related Reports
Natural Resources
May 11, 2018  Water Crisis in the West
Dec. 20, 2011  The Resource Curse
Dec. 09, 2011  Water Crisis in the West
Jan. 18, 2011  Disappearing Forests
Aug. 2008  Race for the Arctic
Feb. 2008  Looming Water Crisis
Oct. 28, 1988  The Battle for Natural Resources
Mar. 21, 1951  International Control of Essential Materials
Oct. 11, 1935  Raw Materials and World Peace
Climate Change
Water Resources