Water rationing in the West not a sustainable option
The U.S.'s population is already over 316 million, and is projected to increase to 420 million people by 2050. That's a lot of people who will need water not only for drinking, but for building, growing and producing. Will the Earth have enough water for everyone?
Especially in the West, and in Arizona, water scarcity is a constant, but oftentimes hidden reality. In a state that has the world's fourth tallest fountain in the middle of the desert and the fifth fastest-growing city in the U.S., extreme water consumption is a norm.
John Sabo, a sustainability scientist in Arizona State University's Global Institute of Sustainability, the institute's director of research development, and associate professor in the School of Life Sciences, is particularly concerned about the West's water future, commenting on the threat of rationing in a recent Phoenix Business Journal article by Hayley Ringle.
“The threat of water rationing will be a recurring theme over the next couple decades because of the drought, growing population and inefficiency,” Sabo says. “At some point, there is going to be rationing and it will affect pocketbooks one way or the other.”
Sabo co-authored a report with water expert and author Robert Glennon called “Financing Water Reform in the Western United States."
In the report, Sabo and Glennon suggest alternative options for water sustainability in the West: farming efficiency, municipal water reuse and natural conservation. However, financing these options will only get more expensive as water becomes more scarce.
“All these things are expensive,” Sabo says. “It’s expensive to build water re-use facilities. It’s expensive to transfer farms to drip irrigation to be more efficient. And it’s expensive for non-governmental organizations to buy water to protect it. It will get more expensive as cities need more water.”
Sabo and Glennon propose that tap water tariff increases could help compensate costs. Basically, if you use more water, you pay more. To improve water efficiency on farms, the researchers say EPA state-revolving funds could contribute to infrastructure projects.
Sabo hopes the Valley and ASU can rally behind water sustainability in the West.
“It’s hard to create a dialogue from academia to the real world, but that’s a central goal of my work on water sustainability; to connect to the real world and the people that will change policy,” Sabo says.