If you don’t read Peter Gleick on water and the West, you really need to because he’s the most important journalist focusing on this vital issue. And if he says we have reached peak water, then we’ve probably reached peak water. After a long list of really depressing facts about water in the West (and the country more broadly), Gleick offers some wise advice:
First, we must acknowledge that we’ve reached peak water in the American west. We have promised more water to users than nature provides. Until demand and supply are brought back into balance, groundwater levels will continue to drop and our rivers will continue to run dry, destroying natural ecosystems. Second, we must acknowledge that there are limits to new supply and that we must turn to the demand side of the problem. This means figuring out how to use water more efficiently and productively, and thinking about moving some water-intensive activities and products to more water-abundant regions. Maybe it is time to grow less rice, alfalfa, cotton, and pasture with flood irrigation. It is past time to retire the green lawn as an acceptable landscape option in arid climates. All toilets and washing machines should be water- and energy-efficient. Finally we have to stop assuming that the water available for future use is the same as in the past. Climate change ensures that it won’t be, but until politicians start to heed the warnings of climate scientists and the on-the-ground evidence of the current water situation, our water problems in the west, and elsewhere, will worsen.
Absolutely true. Of course, we’ve barely begun to admit that these are real issues and we have to change our lifestyles in very real ways.