The Greatest Water Crisis In The History Of The United States

Tyler Durden's picture

Submitted by Michael Snyder via The Economic Collapse blog,

What are we going to do once all the water is gone?  Thanks to the worst drought in more than 1,000 years, the western third of the country is facing the greatest water crisis that the United States has ever seen.  Lake Mead is now the lowest that it has ever been since the Hoover Dam was finished in the 1930s, mandatory water restrictions have already been implemented in the state of California, and there are already widespread reports of people stealing water in some of the worst hit areas.  But this is just the beginning.

Right now, in a desperate attempt to maintain somewhat “normal” levels of activity, water is being pumped out of the ground in the western half of the nation at an absolutely staggering pace.  Once that irreplaceable groundwater is gone, that is when the real crisis will begin.  If this multi-year drought stretches on and becomes the “megadrought” that a lot of scientists are now warning about, life as we know it in much of the country is going to be fundamentally transformed and millions of Americans may be forced to find somewhere else to live.

Simply put, this is not a normal drought.  What the western half of the nation is experiencing right now is highly unusual.  In fact, scientists tell us that California has not seen anything quite like this in at least 1,200 years

Analyzing tree rings that date back to 800 A.D. — a time when Vikings were marauding Europe and the Chinese were inventing gunpowder — there is no three-year period when California’s rainfall has been as low and its temperatures as hot as they have been from 2012 to 2014, the researchers found.

Much of the state of California was once a desert, and much of it is now turning back into a desert The same thing can also be said about much of Arizona and much of Nevada.  We never really should have built massive, sprawling cities such as Las Vegas and Phoenix in the middle of the desert.  But the 20th century was the wettest century for western North America in about 1,000 years, and we got lulled into a false sense of security.

At this point, the water level in Lake Mead has hit a brand new record low, and authorities are warning that official water rationing could soon begin for both Arizona and Nevada…

Lake Mead, the largest reservoir in the US, has hit its lowest level ever. Feeding California, Nevada and Arizona, it can hold a mind-boggling 35 cubic kilometres of water. But it has been many years since it was at capacity, and the situation is only getting worse.


“We’re only at 38 percent full. Lake Mead hasn’t been this low since we were filling it in the 1930s,” said a spokeswoman for the US Bureau of Reclamation in Las Vegas.


If it gets much lower – and with summer approaching and a dwindling snowpack available to replenish it, that looks likely – official rationing will begin for Arizona and Nevada.

And did you know that the once mighty Colorado River no longer even reaches the ocean?  Over 40 million people depend upon this one river, and because the Colorado is slowly dying an enormous amount of water is being pumped out of the ground in a crazed attempt to carry on with business as usual

The Colorado River currently supplies water to more than 40 million people from Denver to Los Angeles (as well as Las Vegas, Phoenix, Tucson, San Diego, Salt Lake City, Albuquerque, and Santa Fe—none of which lie directly on the river). According to one recent study, 16 million jobs and $1.4 trillion in annual economic activity across the West depend on the Colorado. As the river dries up, farmers and cities have turned to pumping groundwater. In just the last 10 years, the Colorado Basin has lost 15.6 cubic miles of subsurface freshwater, an amount researchers called “shocking.” Once an official shortage is declared, Arizona farmers will increase their rate of pumping even further, to blunt the effect of an anticipated sharp cutback.

The same kind of thing is going on in the middle part of the country.  Farmers are pumping water out of the rapidly shrinking Ogallala Aquifer so fast that a major crisis in the years ahead is virtually guaranteed

Farther east, the Ogallala Aquifer under the High Plains is also shrinking because of too much demand. When the Dust Bowl overtook the Great Plains in the 1930s, the Ogallala had been discovered only recently, and for the most part it wasn’t tapped then to help ease the drought. But large-scale center-pivot irrigation transformed crop production on the plains after World War II, allowing water-thirsty crops like corn and alfalfa for feeding livestock.


But severe drought threatens the southern plains again, and water is being unsustainably drawn from the southern Ogallala Aquifer. The northern Ogallala, found near the surface in Nebraska, is replenished by surface runoff from rivers originating in the Rockies. But farther south in Texas and New Mexico, water lies hundreds of feet below the surface, and does not recharge. Sandra Postel wrote here last month that the Ogallala Aquifer water level in the Texas Panhandle has dropped by up to 15 feet in the past decade, with more than three-quarters of that loss having come during the drought of the past five years. A recent Kansas State University study said that if farmers in Kansas keep irrigating at present rates, 69 percent of the Ogallala Aquifer will be gone in 50 years.

At one time, most of us took water completely for granted.

But now that it is becoming “the new oil”, people are starting to look at water much differently.  Sadly, this even includes thieves

With the state of California mired in its fourth year of drought and a mandatory 25 percent reduction in water usage in place, reports of water theft have become common.


In April, The Associated Press reported that huge amounts of water went missing from the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta and a state investigation was launched.


The delta is a vital body of water, serving 23 million Californians as well as millions of farm acres, according to the Association for California Water Agencies.


The AP reported in February that a number of homeowners in Modesto, California, were fined $1,500 for allegedly taking water from a canal. In another instance, thieves in the town of North San Juan stole hundreds of gallons of water from a fire department tank.

In case you are wondering, of course this emerging water crisis is going to deeply affect our food supply.  More than 40 percent of all our fruits and vegetables are grown in the state of California, so this drought is going to end up hitting all of us in the wallet one way or another.

And this water crisis is not the only major threat that our food supply is facing at the moment.  A horrific outbreak of the bird flu has already killed more than 20 million turkeys and chickens, and the price of eggs has already gone up substantially

The cost of a carton of large eggs in the Midwest has jumped nearly 17 percent to $1.39 a dozen from $1.19 since mid-April when the virus began appearing in Iowa’s chicken flocks and farmers culled their flocks to contain any spread.


A much bigger increase has emerged in the eggs used as ingredients in processed products like cake mix and mayonnaise, which account for the majority of what Iowa produces. Those eggs have jumped 63 percent to $1.03 a dozen from 63 cents in the last three weeks, said Rick Brown, senior vice president of Urner Barry, a commodity market analysis firm.

Most of us are accustomed to thinking of the United States as a land of seemingly endless resources, but now we are really starting to bump up against some of our limitations.

Despite all of our technology, the truth is that we are still exceedingly dependent on the weather patterns that produce rain and snow for us.

For years, I have been warning that Dust Bowl conditions would be returning to the western half of the country, and thanks to this multi-year drought we can now see it slowly happening all around us.

And if this drought continues to stretch on, things are going to get worse than this.

Much worse.

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TBT or not TBT's picture

We'll golf on sand.  

Billy the Poet's picture

"What are we going to do once all the water is gone?"


Crumble? We're 70 percent water.

nope-1004's picture

So should I go turn off my sprinkler?  I guess I could, I gotta wash the Land Rover anyway.  Thanks.

- Beverly Hills Douche

Publicus's picture

Easy come, easy go.


God's judgement is beautiful.

MonetaryApostate's picture

Food & Water.... THE NEW GOLD.

Evil Peanut's picture

I'm going all in on east coast real estate before the made rush

James_Cole's picture

The good news is the drought is strictly contained to California / Arizona etc. and larger global trends cannot be extrapolated.

Matt's picture

Interestingly, increased drought is a predicted side effect of suppressing global warming through the use of aerosols. 

J S Bach's picture

"What are we going to do once all the water is gone?"


Drain the Great Lakes!


This hyperactive panic mongering is laughable.

What's happening in the southwest is called "nature".  It's not man-made and it's not the end of the world.  It may, however, be the end of an unnatural attempt to alter Mother Nature's unknowable plans.  

The new cry of our age will be, "Go East, young man, go East!"

Matt's picture

The financial impacts alone may be sufficient to collapse the whole system. 

gmrpeabody's picture

Winter rules apply...

SofaPapa's picture

We are reaching the endpoint of our current philosophy.  This is to say: the commoditization of everything.  Nothing according to our current thought has a value beyond the "dollar" value that can be put on it.  I am particularly struck by the furor about "water thieves".  This is an incredible notion that has developed over the past 200 years: that water is property.  This idea has always been there, since the "king's lands", but in the past 200 years, this notion of "owning" the environment around us which provides us life has really kicked into high gear.  It's insanity, and as I said, we are reaching the end point.

Sadly, because of the technology we have wielded in extracting these resources from planetary storage locations which operate on millenial timescales, while our technology operates on a decadal level, we have supercharged the human population to a level that is completely unsustainable using the actually renewable resources.  This planet has a renewable resource base.  But we have way outstripped that in our greed and impatience.  Will the population return to the level that can be sustained using the planet's capacity for cyclical renewal or will it overshoot?  If it overshoots, humans may disappear entirely.  Given our history, I don't think our species has what it takes to make it through the next century.  It was a quick run for our species, but boy we made a splash while we were here, no?

chumbawamba's picture

It will be amusing when none of this comes to pass and we laugh at the fearmongers who so desperately wanted us to believe, as did they, that the sky is actually falling.

I am Chumbawamba.

SofaPapa's picture

I am pessimistic, but I have nothing to sell.  I hope I am wrong.  I have been overly pessimistic for 20 years now.  But things are a lot worse now than the first time I was being overly pessimistic...

Keyser's picture

There is no reversing the current trend of weather patterns for the west coast of the US as geoengineering has done it's job... The question now is where over 38 million people are going to go... Me tinks Jade Helm is staging assets in the area in preparation for the coming migration... 


Perseus son of Zeus's picture

I just wanted to tell everyone that I'm going to be running my sprinkler system for an EXTRA 2 hours per zone today. I'm over-seeding with a nice lush wide blade Argentinian Bahia seed which when properly fertilized and trimmed to the proper height looks like a pillowtop mattress.

McCormick No. 9's picture

This drought is real, but it's not forever. For whatever reason, (and I tend to think HAARP is involved) there was a persistent high pressure over the central eastern pacific this winter, preventing moisture from reaching the West Coast. With the spring breakup of the jet stream, this high pressure has dissipated, allowing this moisture to reach landfall. Now we're getting rain. Furthermore, a strong El Nino condition is building in the tropical eastern Pacific. It may prove too strong for HAARP to deflect the numerous hurricannes and tropical depressions that will be spawned from this warm water. I will not be surprised if the news from Cali this summer is flood news, not drought news. Let's not get too excited.

DutchR's picture

Import more Mexicans, they are 65% water

fattail's picture

Just because you are paranoid does not mean they are not after you.

divingengineer's picture

You are spot on Chumba,

One year of El Nino would end this.  


Lore's picture

I resent the insinuation that *I* have "oustripped [the resource base] in [my] greed and impatience." I live within my means, dollar-wise and other-wise.  Just because times are changing doesn't mean we should parrot mass-marketed Agenda 21 sound bites and run like scared collectivists into the arms of Big Green Brother, shirking the rights for independence that our forefathers fought and died to defend. A healthy, hardy nation is one that fosters independence, not "interdependence" (aka Dependence). 

SofaPapa's picture


I see where my downvotes are coming from, and I get it.

I in no way support Agenda 21.  I stand by what I said above about us as a species having reached a population that is unsustainable using the recharge rate of natural resources.

I in no way, however, believe that the authorities have any right whatsoever to try to "remedy" this situation.  TPTB have been instrumental in creating the unjust environment in which we live.  I sure as hell don't trust them to fix it.  My only hope for us to reach a stable equilibrium with the planet would involve a disintegration of the current centralized power structures.  That means for people to stop following anything they are told from the center.  Live as individuals and disconnect from any externally encouraged grouping.  Local communities of people who actually have contact with each other for mutual support is good.  Remote authorities dictating behavior on some "patriotic" or "systemic" call to action is total BS.  The sooner globalization disintegrates, the better chance smaller groupings could survive.

No, I don't agree with Agenda 21 at all.

Lore's picture

Cheers. We're on the same page.  Agenda 21 seems intended to preserve Oligarchical Collectivism by making the global plantation more scalable and marketing it as 'grassroots.'  Ten thousand Little Brothers (and Sisters) are less immediately disturbing than one Big Brother.  By analogy, Hitler Youth probably seemed 'quaint' at first.

NoDecaf's picture

We can run all the useless eaters through a press and extract their juices - Henry Kissinger

TBT or not TBT's picture

Sounds more like one of the Dune characters. 

Keyser's picture

I was thinking of that prick Baron Harkonnen...

The spice must flow...

Oh regional Indian's picture

The ruling elite do have a harkonnen-ish bent.

And those are called death-stills. Those were for water.

I think HK is hinting at SoylentG...

Citxmech's picture

Wasn't "Harkonnen" a play on "American?"

0b1knob's picture

It's raining right now in Souther California.   It almost NEVER rains in May.    Its only about 1 inch but its still abnormal.   Another storm is coming behind it.

Hell's own El Nino warm spot has developed in the Pacific.   Next year 40 inchs of rain and flooding in California if it persists.   Regression to the norm.

IronForge's picture

It will dry up in no time.

LAX usually has "Trace" Amts from June 'til Nov, so it won't last.  Santa Ana Winds will kick right in...

Fun Facts's picture

CA is reverting back to a desert climate as it once was.

The remaining water is being used at an unsustainable pace.

CA, NV and AZ will resemble the third world after they run out of water, which will occur over the next several years.

IronForge's picture

It rained Yesterday, drizzled earlier Today; but now, it's all bright and sunny - and DRY.

LA's Population Base is going to increase internally and from (illegal) immigration.  SoCal's going to continue increasing in population; and the Colorado River is going to be used up - prior to reaching the Region in due time.

WOAR's picture

I'd just like to take a moment to say that, even during the good years, the aquifer that Californians depend upon was still being drained, it was just at more manageable rates as opposed to the insanity that we see now.

The problem will not be fixed with more rain, only delayed. The mass migration is coming.

Like winter, but with more Mexicans and less snow.

dontgoforit's picture

Dominant theory is the Mayan died out - or left - Mexico due to a prolonged and ultra-severe drought.  Where are all the folks who live in AZ & CA gonna' go?  Might get a bit crowded in the east.

Citxmech's picture

If the population of CA desides to move en masse, the freedom of citizens to move across state lines may not be long for this world. 

MonetaryApostate's picture

Don't think about Hyperactive fear/panic mongering, EXPECT THE WORST, indeed plan for it, but hope for the best nevertheless....


Because if WW3 breaks out, nuclear submarines sinking down into the water supply really does make me wonder where we are all headed...

chubakka's picture

its already happening in the great lakes.

OceanX's picture

"Drain the Great Lakes!"

No, not the Great Lakes, "they've" been scheming on this since around the 50s


Lone_Star's picture

Yeah, seriously droughts are nothing new. Texas went through, and parts of the state are still in, severe drought for the past 7 years.

Plus the U.S. has seen worse.

flyingpigg's picture

Lowest water level since Lehman!

Better fill up the pool...

LetThemEatRand's picture

Kudos for perseverance in the face of the ZH brick wall, JC.

James_Cole's picture

Having reality on my side helps, indeed, the evidence writes itself. 

TahoeBilly2012's picture

Why not a water "app" for Iphones? That would solve it right there.

847328_3527's picture

Jerry Brown can simply hire the  Mexicans to desalinate water from the Sea of Cortez and freight it on on his $60 Billion hyper supersonic Light Rail to mid and northern Cali. Any passengers can float their way up north in the water tanks.