Washington, DC, New York City, Los Angeles and San Diego are among the cities most at risk for drought-induced water shortages, according to a report from the Columbia University Water Center, in conjunction with Veolia Water and Growing Blue, a collaboration of NGOs, water companies and industry groups.
Joining the metro areas on the list are the “breadbasket regions” of Nebraska, Illinois and Minnesota, which produce almost 40 percent of the nation’s corn, the report says. And while industry only accounts for 18 percent of direct water use, industrial supply chains may have more water risk because of climate change, the study says.
In America’s Water Risk: Water Stress and Climate Variability, Columbia used a new water research metric called the Normalized Deficit Cumulated (NDC) index to estimate measures of water risk to the nation’s major cities and agricultural regions.
Columbia developed the NDC as a risk metric for evaluating historical periods of drought, using more than 60 years of precipitation and the current water use pattern for US counties. Columbia says this means the NDC measurement tool reveals a more accurate depiction of the discrepancy between water use and water availability.
The groups say the findings highlight the importance of “blue growth,” an approach to water management that ensures water remains an enabler of economic growth, not a limitation.
The UN has warned economic losses linked to natural disasters — including droughts and floods — are out of control, soaring past $100 billion annually for three consecutive years, and will continue to escalate unless risk management becomes a central piece of business investment strategies. In a study published last week, the UN said direct losses from floods, earthquakes and drought have been underestimated by at least 50 percent. So far this century, direct losses from disasters are at about $2.5 trillion.
Last year, a survey by the World Economic Forum ranked water supply crises as the leading global risk when considering crisis likelihood and impact.