Case Studies: USA

United States

Over the last 100 years, the USA has expanded its industries and populations by a huge amount. But with that massive expansion comes some steep costs: environmental degradation. And the most pressing issue affecting the environment of the USA is water scarcity.


In California, the battle for water rights continues to be a contentious issue: a continuing battle between the needs of urban metropolises, the immense water requirements of agriculture in a semi-arid environment, and new environmental considerations. California is a self-sufficient nation, with a GDP well over most European nations. It accounts for over half the US's total crop of fruits and vegetables. But the water resources required to sustain this vast farming endeavor have been strained in recent years by a boom in urban populations and climate change (warmer temperatures) coupled with sporadic rainfall and drought, means there is less water to go around.

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In an interview with water charity Circle of Blue, Kevin Dennehy, director of the U.S. Geological Survey's Groundwater Resources Program, explains the problem facing the United States: "Basically the groundwater is being depleted of its resource. It's been happening for quite some time and it's going to continue to happen. The removal of water from the aquifer is at a greater rate than water is being re-charged in the aquifer naturally."

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So what does this all mean, for right now and the future? Any models of natural systems are usually extremely inaccurate, because there are so many variables to tweak and the Earth is so incredibly complex. The unpredictability of rainfall in today's changing climate will most likely cause more severe droughts and flooding, causing more and more local and statewide water shortages. Facing increased use and decreasing supply, the price of water will rise, resulting in decreased access for the poorest communities and reducing the quality of health and living in the U.S.

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