A report released Tuesday by the Natural Resources Defense Council shows that Florida is one of 14 states in danger of an eventual water shortage. The NRDC, which touts itself as “the nation’s most effective environmental action group,” found that climate change will inevitably lead to severe water shortages by 2050 if serious changes are not made now. The report said that the Great Plains and much of the Southwest U.S. are in the greatest danger, but that parts of Arizona, Florida, Texas, and California face “extreme or high risk to water sustainability, or are likely to see limitations on water availability as demand exceeds supply.”
In a July 20 press release detailing the report, Dan Lashof, director of the Climate Change Center at NRDC, said,
Water shortages can strangle economic development and agricultural production and affected communities. As a result, cities and states will bear real and significant costs if Congress fails to take the steps necessary to slow down and reverse the warming trend. Water management and climate change adaptation plans will be essential to lessen the impacts, but they cannot be expected to counter the effects of a warming climate.
The report suggests that water withdrawal projects, in which water is taken from a source like groundwater for use by humans, are risky and often counter-intuitive when taking into account the future availability of water:
Estimated water withdrawal as a percentage of available precipitation is generally less than 5 percent for the majority of the Eastern United States, and less than 30 percent for the majority of the Western United States. But in some arid regions (such as Texas, the Southwest, and California) and agricultural areas, water withdrawal is greater than 100 percent of the available precipitation. In other words, in many places, water is already used in quantities that exceed supply.
Florida currently has at least one large-scale water withdrawal project underway: Construction is progressing on a pipeline that is set to withdraw up to 5.5 million gallons a day from the St. Johns River for use in Seminole County irrigation systems.