Guest Post: 30 Facts On The Coming Water Crisis That Will Change Everything

Tyler Durden's picture

Submitted by Michael Snyder of The Economic Collapse blog,

The world is rapidly running out of clean water. Some of the largest lakes and rivers on the globe are being depleted at a very frightening pace, and many of the most important underground aquifers that we depend on to irrigate our crops will soon be gone. At this point, approximately 40 percent of the entire population of the planet has little or no access to clean water, and it is being projected that by 2025 two-thirds of humanity will live in "water-stressed" areas. But most Americans are not too concerned about all of this because they assume that North America has more fresh water than anyone else does. And actually they would be right about that, but the truth is that even North America is rapidly running out of water and it is going to change all of our lives. Today, the most important underground water source in America, the Ogallala Aquifer, is rapidly running dry. The most important lake in the western United States, Lake Mead, is rapidly running dry. The most important river in the western United States, the Colorado River, is rapidly running dry. Putting our heads in the sand and pretending that we are not on the verge of an absolutely horrific water crisis is not going to make it go away. Without water, you cannot grow crops, you cannot raise livestock and you cannot support modern cities. As this global water crisis gets worse, it is going to affect every single man, woman and child on the planet. I encourage you to keep reading and learn more.

The U.S. intelligence community understands what is happening. According to one shocking government report that was released last year, the global need for water will exceed the global supply of water by 40 percent by the year 2030...

This sobering message emerges from the first U.S. Intelligence Community Assessment of Global Water Security. The document predicts that by 2030 humanity's "annual global water requirements" will exceed "current sustainable water supplies" by forty percent.

Oh, but our scientists will find a solution to our problems long before then, won't they?

But what if they don't?

Most Americans tend to think of a "water crisis" as something that happens in very dry places such as Africa or the Middle East, but the truth is that almost the entire western half of the United States is historically a very dry place. The western U.S. has been hit very hard by drought in recent years, and many communities are on the verge of having to make some very hard decisions. For example, just look at what is happening to Lake Mead. Scientists are projecting that Lake Mead has a 50 percent chance of running dry by the year 2025. If that happens, it will mean the end of Las Vegas as we know it. But the problems will not be limited just to Las Vegas. The truth is that if Lake Mead runs dry, it will be a major disaster for that entire region of the country. This was explained in a recent article by Alex Daley...

Way before people run out of drinking water, something else happens: When Lake Mead falls below 1,050 feet, the Hoover Dam's turbines shut down – less than four years from now, if the current trend holds – and in Vegas the lights start going out.

Ominously, these water woes are not confined to Las Vegas. Under contracts signed by President Obama in December 2011, Nevada gets only 23.37% of the electricity generated by the Hoover Dam. The other top recipients: Metropolitan Water District of Southern California (28.53%); state of Arizona (18.95%); city of Los Angeles (15.42%); and Southern California Edison (5.54%).

You can always build more power plants, but you can't build more rivers, and the mighty Colorado carries the lifeblood of the Southwest. It services the water needs of an area the size of France, in which live 40 million people. In its natural state, the river poured 15.7 million acre-feet of water into the Gulf of California each year. Today, twelve years of drought have reduced the flow to about 12 million acre-feet, and human demand siphons off every bit of it; at its mouth, the riverbed is nothing but dust.


Nor is the decline in the water supply important only to the citizens of Las Vegas, Phoenix, and Los Angeles. It's critical to the whole country. The Colorado is the sole source of water for southeastern California's Imperial Valley, which has been made into one of the most productive agricultural areas in the US despite receiving an average of three inches of rain per year.

Are you starting to get an idea of just how serious this all is?

But it is not just our lakes and our rivers that are going dry.

We are also depleting our groundwater at a very frightening pace as a recent Science Daily article discussed...

Three results of the new study are particularly striking: First, during the most recent drought in California's Central Valley, from 2006 to 2009, farmers in the south depleted enough groundwater to fill the nation's largest human-made reservoir, Lake Mead near Las Vegas -- a level of groundwater depletion that is unsustainable at current recharge rates.


Second, a third of the groundwater depletion in the High Plains occurs in just 4% of the land area. And third, the researchers project that if current trends continue some parts of the southern High Plains that currently support irrigated agriculture, mostly in the Texas Panhandle and western Kansas, will be unable to do so within a few decades.

In the United States we have massive underground aquifers that have allowed our nation to be the breadbasket of the world. But once the water from those aquifers is gone, it is gone for good. That is why what is happening to the Ogallala Aquifer is so alarming. The Ogallala Aquifer is one of the largest sources of fresh water in the world, and U.S. farmers use water from it to irrigate more than 15 million acres of crops each year. The Ogallala Aquifer covers more than 100,000 square miles and it sits underneath the states of Texas, New Mexico, Oklahoma, Colorado, Kansas, Nebraska, Wyoming and South Dakota. Most Americans have never even heard of it, but it is absolutely crucial to our way of life. Sadly, it is being drained at a rate that is almost unimaginable.

The following are some facts about the Ogallala Aquifer and the growing water crisis that we are facing in the United States. A number of these facts were taken from one of my previous articles. I think that you will agree that many of these facts are quite alarming...

1. The Ogallala Aquifer is being drained at a rate of approximately 800 gallons per minute.

2. According to the U.S. Geological Survey, "a volume equivalent to two-thirds of the water in Lake Erie" has been permanently drained from the Ogallala Aquifer since 1940.

3. Decades ago, the Ogallala Aquifer had an average depth of approximately 240 feet, but today the average depth is just 80 feet. In some areas of Texas, the water is gone completely.

4. Scientists are warning that nothing can be done to stop the depletion of the Ogallala Aquifer. The ominous words of David Brauer of the Ogallala Research Service should alarm us all...

"Our goal now is to engineer a soft landing. That's all we can do."

5. According to a recent National Geographic article, the average depletion rate of the Ogallala Aquifer is picking up speed....

Even more worrisome, the draining of the High Plains water account has picked up speed. The average annual depletion rate between 2000 and 2007 was more than twice that during the previous fifty years. The depletion is most severe in the southern portion of the aquifer, especially in Texas, where the water table beneath sizeable areas has dropped 100-150 feet; in smaller pockets, it has dropped more than 150 feet.

6. According to the U.S. National Academy of Sciences, the U.S. interior west is now the driest that it has been in 500 years.

7. Wildfires have burned millions of acres of vegetation in the central part of the United States in recent years. For example, wildfires burned an astounding 3.6 million acres in the state of Texas alone during 2011. This helps set the stage for huge dust storms in the future.

8. Unfortunately, scientists tell us that it would be normal for extremely dry conditions to persist in parts of western North America for decades. The following is from an article in the Vancouver Sun...

But University of Regina paleoclimatologist Jeannine-Marie St. Jacques says that decade-long drought is nowhere near as bad as it can get.


St. Jacques and her colleagues have been studying tree ring data and, at the American Association for the Advancement of Science conference in Vancouver over the weekend, she explained the reality of droughts.


"What we're seeing in the climate records is these megadroughts, and they don't last a decade—they last 20 years, 30 years, maybe 60 years, and they'll be semi-continental in expanse," she told the Regina Leader-Post by phone from Vancouver.


"So it's like what we saw in the Dirty Thirties, but imagine the Dirty Thirties going on for 30 years. That's what scares those of us who are in the community studying this data pool."

9. Experts tell us that U.S. water bills are likely to soar in the coming years. It is being projected that repairing and expanding our decaying drinking water infrastructure will cost more than one trillion dollars over the next 25 years, and as a result our water bills will likely approximately triple over that time period.

10. Right now, the United States uses approximately 148 trillion gallons of fresh water a year, and there is no way that is sustainable in the long run.

11. According to a U.S. government report, 36 states are already facing water shortages or will be facing water shortages within the next few years.

12. Lake Mead supplies about 85 percent of the water to Las Vegas, and since 1998 the level of water in Lake Mead has dropped by about 5.6 trillion gallons.

13. It has been estimated that the state of California only has a 20 year supply of fresh water left.

14. It has been estimated that the state of New Mexico only has a 10 year supply of fresh water left.

15. Approximately 40 percent of all rivers in the United States and approximately 46 percent of all lakes in the United States have become so polluted that they are are no longer fit for human use.

The 1,450 mile long Colorado River is a good example of what we have done to our precious water supplies. It is probably the most important body of water in the southwestern United States, and it is rapidly dying.

The following is an excerpt from an outstanding article by Jonathan Waterman about how the once mighty Colorado River is rapidly drying up...

Fifty miles from the sea, 1.5 miles south of the Mexican border, I saw a river evaporate into a scum of phosphates and discarded water bottles. This dirty water sent me home with feet so badly infected that I couldn’t walk for a week. And a delta once renowned for its wildlife and wetlands is now all but part of the surrounding and parched Sonoran Desert. According to Mexican scientists whom I met with, the river has not flowed to the sea since 1998. If the Endangered Species Act had any teeth in Mexico, we might have a chance to save the giant sea bass (totoaba), clams, the Sea of Cortez shrimp fishery that depends upon freshwater returns, and dozens of bird species.


So let this stand as an open invitation to the former Secretary of the Interior and all water buffalos who insist upon telling us that there is no scarcity of water here or in the Mexican Delta. Leave the sprinklered green lawns outside the Aspen conferences, come with me, and I’ll show you a Colorado River running dry from its headwaters to the sea. It is polluted and compromised by industry and agriculture. It is overallocated, drought stricken, and soon to suffer greatly from population growth. If other leaders in our administration continue the whitewash, the scarcity of knowledge and lack of conservation measures will cripple a western civilization built upon water.

But of course North America is in far better shape when it comes to fresh water than the rest of the world is.

In fact, in many areas of the world today water has already become the most important issue.

The following are some incredible facts about the global water crisis that is getting even worse with each passing day...

1. Total global water use has quadrupled over the past 100 years, and it is now increasing faster than it ever has been before.

2. Today, there are 1.6 billion people that live in areas of the globe that are considered to be "water-stressed", and it is being projected that two-thirds of the entire population of the globe will be experiencing "water-stressed" conditions by the year 2025.

3. According to USAID, one-third of the people on earth will be facing "severe" or "chronic" water shortages by the year 2025.

4. Once upon a time, the Aral Sea was the 4th largest freshwater lake in the entire world. At this point, it less than 10 percent the size that it used to be, and it is being projected that it will dry up completely by the year 2020.

5. If you can believe it, the flow of water along the Jordan River is down to only 2 percent of its historic rate.

6. It is being projected that the demand for water in China will exceed the supply by 25 percent by the year 2030.

7. According to the United Nations, the world is going to need at least 30 percent more fresh water by the year 2030.

8. Sadly, it is estimated that approximately 40 percent of the children living in Africa and India have had their growth stunted due to unclean water and malnutrition.

9. Of the 60 million people added to the cities of the world each year, the vast majority of them live in deeply impoverished areas that have no sanitation facilities whatsoever.

10. It has been estimated that 75 percent of all surface water in India has been heavily contaminated by human or agricultural waste.

11. Sadly, according to one UN study on sanitation, far more people in India have access to a cell phone than to a toilet.

12. Every 8 seconds, somewhere in the world a child dies from drinking dirty water.

13. Due to a lack of water, Saudi Arabia has given up on trying to grow wheat and will be 100 percent dependent on wheat imports by the year 2016.

14. Each year in northern China, the water table drops by an average of about one meter due to severe drought and overpumping, and the size of the desert increases by an area equivalent to the state of Rhode Island.

15. In China, 80 percent of the major rivers have become so horribly polluted that they do not support any aquatic life at all at this point.

So is there any hope that the coming global water crisis can be averted?

If not, what can we do to prepare?

Lake Mead Is Drying Up

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km4's picture

And the Ben Bernank says I'll print more $$$ to fix this too !

AN0NYM0US's picture

Rand Paul is speaking in an historic filibuster against DRONES>


what is this crap about water Tyler?  Come clean with who owns you Durden or ban me == of course the later you chicken shit

Stoploss's picture

If not, what can we do to prepare?


Buy land with water wells on it.

fourchan's picture

michigan knows this is all true but laughs at the water wasters like factory farms and citys built in deserts like vegas and los angles.

GMadScientist's picture

Don't'll all go up like so much dried kindling eventually...something Detroit knows all too well too.

johnQpublic's picture

chuck noris could fix this shit with one kick

lasvegaspersona's picture

Vegas has come a long way in the past 20 years. The water district spent a lot buying up turf and putting in 'drought tolerant' landscapes. Houses are NEVER built with grass. 

The big gaudy fountains are still flowing but in the neighborhoods folks are pretty sensible. Lots of pools of course but these are usuall in custom homes. Small groups do permaculture and urban gardening and the awarewness  of water issues has definitely entered the public consciousness.

We get 3 to4 inches of annual rainfall usually over a few March days. Drip irrigation  is everywhere except the turf areas in parks and golf most places. I don't golf but it seems many of the nicer courses are done with  lots of non turf finishes.

We B tryin...honest.

GlobalCtzn's picture

If you are under 50 years old Vegas will be essentially abandoned in your lifetime I predict.

Half_A_Billion_Hollow_Points's picture

It will be one of the most "exotic places to travel: the ruins of Vegas".  

Also great for shooting zombies, like detroit.


Anusocracy's picture

There are 5,400 cubic miles of water in the Great Lakes.

Michigan used to have a factoid on its state maps about how you were never more than two miles from surface water and some of that surface water is keeping me from finding my lost gold.

Darth Stacker's picture

How do you "waste water?" Where does it go, outerspace? I have been listening to this crap for 35 years. These Chicken Littles have been trying to scare people in order to control them. Our planet is covered in water. It literally falls from the sky. 

merizobeach's picture

Wow, you must be MDB's secret protege!  I'll give you the benefit of the doubt before I invite you to drink a hearty sample of the 'water' that falls from the sky over Beijing, or the Mekong or Ganges 'water' that covers nearly two million sq km of our planet before it 'refreshes' our oceans.

stuckpixel's picture

Comprehension motherfucker, do you have it?

It's not a matter of the planet running out of water. It's a matter of humans not being able to use as much as they 'need' to.

We rely heavily on aquifers for our agriculture. Once those are gone, it's going to take a LONG time for them to refill. For our lifespan, once they're gone, they're gone.

This story isn't so much about 'running out of water' -- it's more about running out of easy to access clean water -- and our society not being ready to deal with that. 

CPL's picture

At $100 a foot to drill, you best have coin to hire a pro that can dig deep.


Water tables are down across all of North America.  

ss123's picture

Doesn't matter. We (Ben) have infinite liquidity.

One World Mafia's picture

Michael Snyder outing himself as a BS artist. Water cannot be lost from the planet except by a nuclear reaction. He also is pushing global warming BS nonsense.

ss123's picture

Not true at all. Water, a molecule, is composed of hydrogen and oxygen which can combine with other atoms to form molecules that are not water.

Now, if water were an atom, then yes, it would take some nuclear reaction to destroy it.

Forget to take a basic science class in-between bong hits in high school?

narnia's picture

Two words for this turd of an article: economically bankrupt. peak oil & peak water are total myths propagated by central planners with an agenda.

Dr. Sandi's picture

So you don't care if the water you drink comes from the neighbor's toilet then?

Altavoz-de-Verdad's picture

So the United States didn't hit peak crude oil production back in 1970?


Source: EIA -

stuckpixel's picture


One World Mafia's picture

You must be joking.  It's component parts, hydrogen and oxygen, are not lost.  You tell me how it is lost by using it.

ss123's picture

Of course hydrogen and oxygen are not lost. Never said they were. That doesn't mean they will always remain water. They can get locked up in other forms that are not drinkable and unuseable for irrigation.

Regardless, there is hardly any fresh water on the planet.

Anusocracy's picture

About 3,100 cubic miles of water in earth's atmosphere.


WallowaMountainMan's picture

i gots fresh water from the tap.

i call it first water. ice cold, year round....

i wash my car with it...

maybe i can trade it for something...

the car, not the water.


on a seriuos note, my hunch is that one of the things future people will hate us most for is fracking, i.e. wasting water for oil.

GMadScientist's picture

Here...drink this H2SO4 and tell me how fresh it tastes.

One World Mafia's picture

Evaporation.   You can take your concoction and seal it up.  You could also take a bottle of water and seal it up.  But you're just moving the constituents of water from one place to another.  You are not losing it.  Snyder said "But once the water from those aquifers is gone, it is gone for good."

GMadScientist's picture

Yes, but getting back into H20 form and potables requires energy...and groundwater recharge does not happen instantaneously, or even necessarily fast enough to replenish what's being sucked out by us.

Ever solved a PDE?

Altavoz-de-Verdad's picture

In that case he's speaking of the Ogallala aquifer which had most of its water deposited during the retreat of the glaciers during the end of the last Ice Age. 


The water-permeated thickness of the Ogallala Formation ranges from a few feet to more than 1000 feet (300 m) and is generally greater in the northern plains.[4] The depth of the water below the surface of the land ranges from almost 400 feet (122 m) in parts of the north to between 100 to 200 feet (30 to 61 m) throughout much of the south. Present-day recharge of the aquifer with fresh water occurs at an exceedingly slow rate, suggesting that much of the water in its pore spaces is paleowater, dating back to the most recent ice age and probably earlier.

Nobody For President's picture

Johnny drank some H2O

He'll drink of that no more.

For what he thought was H20

Was really H2SO4.

One World Mafia's picture

This was taught in Junior High that you cannot lose water from the planet, except as I stated above and thought you could infer I would have to be implying its constituents.

Altavoz-de-Verdad's picture

No one is saying that you are losing the water from the planet.  You're losing it from specific locations where there are significant population or agricultural centers.  Or it is becoming polluted.  Sanitizing the water requires technology and energy.  Things that cost money and resources. 

Andre's picture

The point was not water per se, it was fresh water in places that are useful - like Lake Mead or the Ogalalla Aquifer.

I note one of the more difficult situations was ignored - Jordan River. Middle East fun times again.

jmc8888's picture

NAWAPA XXI, a simple but extensive project, that could have been done fifty years ago, as Kennedy was going to do it before being killed, would solve both.


Auntie Lo's picture

There are 2 aspects important for water supplies that were somewhat conflated in the article: quality and quantity. While some places are seeing water supplies diminish in quantity, in some places, quality is much more important. The Ganges River still flows but it's not drinkable. Dams impede the flow of the Colorado River resulting in it no longer reaching the Sea of Cortez. "We" knew about the Ogallala problem at least 50 years ago and still...

Some water probably escapes into space but yes, you're drinking dinosaur pee!

Anusocracy's picture

When will it end?

First horsemeat, then poo in food, now dinosaur pee?

GMadScientist's picture

Note the adjective 'clean', moron.

One World Mafia's picture

Note he said, "But once the water from those aquifers is gone, it is gone for good" moron.

Andre's picture

And how, exactly, do you plan to refill an aquifer? Water takes many years to filter in and add to the aquifer.

I still agree with the comment you're not very smart.

Dr. Sandi's picture

Once the water is pumped out, the spongy layer of an aquifer that held the water between the sand and rocks is compressed. When and if the water comes back, it is no longer stored because the natural sponge has been flattened.

That doesn't come back until you have another glacier roll through and spread the sand and rocks again.

When the aquifer is gone, the sponge has been squeezed dry one final time. No do-overs.

Stoploss's picture

That's kinda why i only buy land with water wells already on it.


HobbyFarmer's picture

We have a well on our property.  I normally pump water with electricity but have the ability to move about 2 gallons a minute by hand.  The cows drink 50 gallons of fresh water a day between them.  This past summer was hot and brutally dry in the midwest so I had to water my orchard (25 trees X 10 gallons a tree = 250 gallons).  Add in the water for berry bushes, gardens, other animals and finally (most importantly!) for my family’s personal use.  We’re talking hundreds of gallons of water to operate a very small hobby farm.  Without electricity, that’s a lot of the day spent moving water from the ground.

Recognizing the amount of water we’re pulling from our well we are trying a couple of methods to reduce our water usage.  These include: 1) mulch/compost cover on all orchards/gardens/berry areas, 2) water cisterns hooked up to roofs, and 3) drip lines installed (under the mulch cover) for all square foot gardens.

The purpose of the mulch/compost cover (no till growing method) is to keep the soil from blowing away, reduce weed growth, promote water retention (when it rains, the water doesn’t drain away, the mulch works as a sponge to soak it up for later use), and keep the soil temperature cooler (reducing the rate that water is lost from the soil).  Another benefit: over time, this layer will break down and form new soil.

The purpose of the cisterns is obvious: catch as much of the house and barn roof water to store for later use.  Our largest cistern is 1550 gallons and should help alleviate some of the pumping we’ve needed to keep our orchard growing.  This cistern will be hooked up to our barn and can go to the animals or the orchard as needed.

The drip lines are obvious, too: keep the water loss to a minimum by feeding the roots directly.  No more spraying water from a sprinkler. 

I am excited to test these methods out.  If anybody cares, I’ll try to find a worthwhile article this fall and post my results in the comments.

The downside of these methods: they can be done at a small farm but are not as possible with modern large scale farms.  For example, with the mulch cover, I moved 90 square yards last year onto my orchard preparing for this method.  90 yards equals a 53 foot semi truck, full to the top.  It took several long days moving it by shovel and wheelbarrow.  The energy / benefit works for me, not sure a large farm would be able to justify the expense/time/oil necessary to use equipment to move that much material around their plants simply to reduce water consumption.  If it made sense, financially, I believe large scale farms would have adopted this method by now.

Like many of you, I love ZH and feel it has given me several important warnings about the way life could go.  I’m in the process of reducing my personal consumption and improving my ability to sustain the lives of my family.  I encourage each of you to read the risks and hedge accordingly.

Raymond Reason's picture

Bravo! We've just started with the no till growing method.  Look forward to reading your results this fall.  I'll post mine as well. 

Raymond Reason's picture

Appreciate it, looks quite interesting!

CPL's picture

Could also learn what grows naturally and is edible.  Bullrushes and Cattails are a good staple.

nc551's picture

I saw a video about 'greening the desert' or something several years ago where people made sustainable communities by capturing the rainfall in areas experiencing less than 5" of rain per year.  We are too dependent water being magically pumped to us.  I live on 70 acres and pay $56/month for water.  $50 in delivery fees and $6/month in water usage.  If had 1 acre of water collection I could store 27,000 gallons per year.  It all flows into the nearby completely polluted river unfortunately.  If i didn't rent i'd be water self sufficient.



krispkritter's picture

That was a piece by Geoff Lawton. Bill Mollison and his Global Gardener series was also very good.  Sepp Holzer also has some really good stuff out there.