The federal government’s recent announcement that it would impose significant cutbacks in water allocations to the seven states reliant on water from the drought-stricken Colorado RiverThis is the latest evidence that climate change is ravaging global water system.
Arizona will lose more that 20 percent of its water allocation and Nevada, 8 percent. Northern Mexico, which is also dependent on the Colorado River, has been receiving 1.5 million acre feet per year from it since a. water-sharing treaty between the two countries was signed in 1944It is also being affected by a 7 percent reduction of its water allocation from river.
Thirty Indigenous tribes, which have land in the Colorado Basin — and which, as a result of a 1908 Supreme Court decision, have water rights from rivers running through their territories — are also preparing for a more arid future. Some are cutting back their water contributions to state reservoirs; Others, in a letter to the Department of the Interior, have noted that they aren’t being adequately consulted on fundamental decisions regarding water usage and distribution in the region.
In Europe, much of the continent is facing its worst drought in half a millenniumThe Danube River is at such low levels that sunken World War II ships are now being exposed above the waterline. Major hydroelectric generators from France, Italy, and Spain are now operating. drops in electricity production of 30 percentThis summer. Crop yields across the continent are dwindlingAs the weather heats up, and the rains stop coming down, the production of many staples is expected to drop by as much as 9 percent over the next one year.
In China, crops yields are also being hammered by the hottest (and longest) heat wave on record, and so worried is the government that it is launching a series of “Hail Mary” attempts to seed the clouds in the skies above the dwindling Yangtze River with rain producing molecules.
India’s crop yields are down so much this yearDue to climate-related changes, it has placed strict limits on food exports.
Each of these crises has the potential to destabilize global markets for food. They are a growing climate-induced disaster when taken together.
Scientists believe the American West is experiencing its peak. worst drought in 1,200 years — tens of millions of people have migrated into the region since the federal water compacts around Colorado River water usage were signed a century ago. Even in drought years, the population is constantly drawing down groundwater supplies, reducing water resources that were built up over long geological timesspans. In just four generations, desert areas have been transformed into water-intensive global hubs for agribusiness and mega-cities like Los Angeles, Phoenix, and Las Vegas. These mega-cities are ever more dependent on the waters of the Colorado River, which are carefully stored in Lake Powell and Lake Mead, and distributed from them. Now, with these two vast reservoirs at only 28 percent of their capacityMany of these areas must find ways to work together reduce their water usage next year by between 2 and 4 million acre-feetFederal authorities believe that the river needs to be restored to its natural health by consuming a third of its annual flow. It’s a staggering task.
The upper basin of the river has Colorado, New Mexico and Wyoming, as well as Utah. They are also facing large water shortages but not on the same scale as their southern neighbors. So far, unlike Arizona and Nevada, they haven’t faced mandatory cuts imposed by the federal government. California, a state that is older than the rest, has more senior water rights. As such, it is not subject to cuts in its Colorado River allocations. That’s a saving grace for southern California, the sprawling cities of which receive roughly one-third of their water from the river. The state faces its own water shortages due to years of drought and a decreasing snowpack in the Sierra Nevada Mountains. Reservoirs such as Shasta Lake and Lake OrovilleAre at or below 50 percent capacity. More than half a million acres of California farmland have been left fallow this year as farmers try to navigate shrinking water allotments from California’s water supplies. Analysts predict that the crisis in land use will only get worse next year.
Drought conditions now affect roughly half of the landmass of the 48 contiguous U.S. states. Crops across the country are now under stress. The U.S.’s cotton crop this year could fall by 40 percent.The crisis is everywhere from Texas to the west. Western farmers are reporting crop failures. declines in fruits and tree nuts of up to 50 percent. California is home to almond crops. These are water-intensive and are at high risk. up to 800,000 acres of land could lie unused Next year. Tomatoes, garlic, and other staples also aren’t being plantedMany California farms are affected by the drought. In California, many farms are closing their doors.
All of this is pushing the world’s food supply chains into crisis mode. Over the past 100 years, we have become accustomed to cheap, industrially produced food. We have gotten used to the idea that food shortages are a thing of the passé, especially in the post-WWII era. We have come to believe that even if natural disasters affect food production in one location, our sophisticated globalized supply chain will be able to compensate for any shortfalls. We assume that crises will occur in staggered rather that simultaneously and that our fates will be considered when assessing the challenges that face food production.
But what if this assumption is wrong? What if a series interconnected and accelerating climate crises across the globe erupt simultaneously, and quickly take away any slack? What if the fertilizer shortagesFood supplies are further being reduced by the conflict in Ukraine and other geopolitical crises. What if the Ukraine war, combined with the lower availability of hydroelectric energy as river levels drop, made it more difficult to produce affordable food at industrial scale? What if large areas in the American West are no longer agriculturally productive and have no access to enough water to sustain the tens to millions of people who call this region home?
The Colorado River water allocation cuts are not likely to be temporary. While this year’s heavy monsoon in the Southwest has somewhat alleviated the drought, it will take years of abundant rainy seasons to make up for the deficits in water supply created by 22 years of drought and decades of cavalier over-drawing of scarce reservoir water and groundwater supplies. In the meantime, the American West’s population continues to grow at unsustainable rates, the demands on its agricultural infrastructure keep expanding, and its insatiable thirst for water shows no sign of easing. If there’s an exit ramp to this particular highway, a method to avoid the pile-up just ahead, it’s unclear where it is, or how it can be accessed. Water rights activists have long called for more equitable distribution of waterFor more infrastructure to ensure drinking water security in rural communities, and for a shift away from water-intensive crops and water-wasteful practices in areas with diminishing groundwater supplies. These issues are now of critical importance in social justice campaigns, not just in the USA, but worldwide, as the global water- and food crisis intensifies.