According to the United States EPA, only one percent of all water on Earth is deemed suitable for human consumption. In a world with a continually-growing population in need of an ample water supply, the world's sources of fresh water are showing increased signs of overuse as they are emptied faster than they can be naturally refilled. In fact, over the past half-decade the demand for water has more than tripled as the watersheds across the globe have been devastated (EPA).
This is not a problem which is limited to the developing world either, as even the United States has also been experiencing the effects of water shortages in recent years. In the US, the average citizen uses more than three times the amount of water as many European countries (Data 360). A key difference between the US and the European continent is the geographical variation. A majority of the large cities in America where water is becoming more scarce are located in the West and are surrounded by arid landscapes, although it should be noted that shortages are not limited to this area alone (The Atlantic). Most water usage in the country is reserved for irrigation of farmland, general landscaping, and home use (EPA). It is estimated by the EPA that the average family uses over 400 gallons of water every day, and that the cumulative volume of water used in homes is much less than the former two greatest uses. Not only is extreme overuse a problem, but seasonal droughts have become increasingly frequent throughout the US. Here, we will look more closely at the causes, effects, and implications of water shortages across the United States and beyond.
VIEWS FROM THE SCIENTIFIC COMMUNITY
While the presence of an increasingly dangerous water shortage in the US is generally agreed-upon within the scientific community, the current severity, future implications, and potential solutions to the problem are not. According to Nick Wiltgen, not only are droughts occurring more often, but their extent and severity are increasing as well. He presents data from the nation-wide drought of 2012, a summer which saw the fifth most expansive and sixth most severe drought in the 120 years that drought data has been recorded (Wiltgin). Here, he also pointed out a key shift in distinguishing characteristics of the way the drought spread compared to historical data. In the past, droughts tended to out spread from a "geographic epicenter," effectively diffusing into adjacent regions. In recent decades, drought events have been popping up as intense localized water shortages that effect metropolitan regions across the country.
There are some who make direct connections between increasing water shortages and global warming, while others attribute it to natural climatic variability. In effect, it is too difficult to say to what extent global warming is contributing to the problem, since only around 120 years of data exist to compare and analyze. However, the existing data does show rather...