Water is the single most important lifesource for every living thing on Earth, including humans. Aside from directly drinking water, humanity depends on having water for cleaning, cooking, agriculture, personal hygiene, and many other uses. Despite this, the growing demands by corporations and the ineptitude of politicians has forced water into becoming an increasingly scarce resource.
As it stands now, about 1.2 billion people, approximately a fifth of the world population, live in areas which regularly experience physical water scarcity. Physical water scarcity is common in arid regions of the world, but artificial physical water scarcity has become more common in recent years due to overdevelopment of water resources. While the issue of water scarcity is a global problem, these issues have created the looming threat of an American water crisis, the effects of which are already apparent.
Even as some areas of the country experience flooding and severe storms, a government report from 2019 made it clear that America’s water supply was shrinking. Within 50 years, multiple regions of the United States could see their freshwater supply decrease by up to a third. The effects of water shortages are not a distant problem by any means, with 83 of America’s 204 water basins being at risk of shortages as early as this year.
Many experts have argued that the solution to America’s water shortage is to encourage individual Americans to control their personal water use. This can be done by controlling prices and limiting daily water use for each household. Essentially, these policies would limit individual access to clean freshwater in order to grant access to more people. However, these solutions ignore the reality that personal consumption makes up just 12% of American freshwater use, while much of the drinking water is rendered unusable due to faults of America’s flailing infrastructure. Federal funding for water systems has fallen by 77% since 1977 as our water supply is poisoned by lead, chemicals, and sewage.
Recent actions to fix water infrastructure, such as those outlined in the American Jobs Plan, are a step in the right direction for America’s water crisis. However, even with these solutions, the country must address not only how our drinkable water is being transported, but also where the vast majority of it is going, which is to power and agriculture. Through finding more efficient methods of water usage in these sectors, the US could save itself from a water shortage crisis in the next century.