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American Journal of Environmental Sciences
Year: 2010  |  Volume: 6  |  Issue: 3  |  Page No.: 249 - 252

Population Growth, Climate Change and Water Scarcity in the Southwestern United States

Amy C. Fuller and Michael O. Harhay    

Abstract: Problem statement: In a simple economic model, water scarcity arises as a result of an imbalance between the supply of and demand for water sources. Distribution in this setting is the source of numerous conflicts globally. Approach: Already, the Southwestern United States (US) suffers from annual drought and long-standing feud over natural water resources. Results: Population growth in the Southwestern United States along with the continued effects of climate change (natural and anthropogenic) predicts a perpetual decline in natural water sources, such as smaller snowpacks, in the coming years. As the increasing number of communities across multiple US states that subsist off of natural water supplies face water shortages with increasing severity, further water conflict will emerge. Such conflicts become especially protracted when the diversion of water from a source of benefit to one community negatively impacts nearby communities of humans and economically vital ecosystems (e.g., marshlands or tributaries). Conclusion/Recommendations: The ensuing politics and health effects of these diversions can be complicated and future water policies both domestically and internationally are lacking. To draw attention to and stimulate discussion around the lacking policy discussion domestically, herein we document existing and emerging consequences of watery scarcity in the Southwestern United States and briefly outline past and potential future policy responses.

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