Based on data released earlier this month by the US Drought Monitor, nine urban areas in the United States are under “exceptional drought” conditions and may experience widespread crop damages, even more severe water restrictions, and water emergencies in coming months.
Of the four different rankings, “exceptional drought” conditions are the most serious “and typically apply to areas that have had prolonged and persistent drought for several months, if not years,” says Klaus Reichardt, CEO and founder of Waterless Co., manufacturer of no-water urinal systems.
According to the report, conditions are so serious in these nine locations that even if they do have a significant rainfall event, it is likely to have only a marginal impact. “These areas need multiple rain falls in order to raise water tables and begin to fill reservoirs,” adds Reichardt.
The cities cited in the report with the most serious water problems in the United States as of August 2013 are:
- Santa Fe, New Mexico
- Albuquerque, New Mexico
- Corpus Christi, Texas
- Brownsville, Texas
- Harlingen, Texas
- Colorado Springs, Colorado
- McAllen, Texas
- Pueblo, Colorado
- Lubbock, Texas
Most of these cities now have voluntary–some mandatory–water restrictions in place, such as limitations on watering lawns, washing cars, filling swimming pools, etc. However, these restrictions are likely to be increased considerably if conditions do not improve radically.
“The smaller communities are in the most serious predicament,” explains Reichardt, “because they typically only have one water source. If that lake or reservoir goes dry, which may happen in certain areas, that’s all they have.” (See Sidebar: Atlanta)
There are some hopeful signs in New Mexico that water conditions will improve. However, conditions in Colorado and southern Texas will persist and even get worse at least into the fall.
Such conditions can also happen in large urban areas. Since Atlanta is dependent on one water source, in 2007 fire trucks were used to bring water to the city and surrounding communities because this one water source had essentially dried up.
Robert Kravitz is president of AlturaSolutions Communications, a communications firm based in Chicago. He may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.