Adaptation to Future Water Shortages in the United States Caused by Population Growth and Climate Change

Thomas C. Brown, Vinod Mahat, Jorge A. Ramirez
2019 Earth's Future  
Population growth and climate change will combine to pose substantial challenges for water management in the United States. Projections of water supply and demand over the 21st century show that in the absence of further adaptation efforts, serious water shortages are likely in some regions. Continued improvements in water use efficiency are likely but will be insufficient to avoid future shortages. Some adaptation measures that have been effective in the past, most importantly large additions
more » ... ly large additions to reservoir storage, have little promise. Other major adaptations commonly used in the past, especially instream flow removals and groundwater mining, can substantially lower shortages but have serious external costs. If those costs are to be avoided, transfers from irrigated agriculture probably will be needed and could be substantial. Plain Language Summary This study estimates the likelihood of water shortages over the remainder of the 21st century in 204 watersheds covering the contiguous United States. The estimates are based on monthly projections of water demand and renewable water supply in light of population growth and climate change, taking into account water storage and transbasin diversion capacities. The study then examines several possible adaptations to projected shortages, including water withdrawal efficiency improvements, reservoir storage enhancements, demand reductions, instream flow reductions, and groundwater depletions. Results provide a broad measure of the relative efficacy of the adaptation measures and show when and where the measures are likely to be helpful.
doi:10.1029/2018ef001091 fatcat:cbjkorzzn5f77lakidparopcjy