The United States has enough water to quench its farms and cities — especially compared to other countries wrestling with more drastic impacts of a warming global climate. 

But water supplies here look more stressed the closer you look at certain parts of the country.

The Post’s Bonnie Berkowitz and Adrian Blanco report on the World Resources Institute's country-by-country analysis of annual limits on water supplies. The United States overall ranked 71st of 189 countries on a scale of “water stress," a measure of how close a place comes to running out of water entirely in a typical year. That means “we are pulling out just under 20 percent of our available water," they note. 

But some regions are already facing a greater strain on their agricultural and drinking water supplies — and it could grow as the climate continues to warm.

Southwestern states are the most stressed. New Mexico is the only state in the “extremely high” stress category, earning the same score as the United Arab Emirates, which was the 10th most stressed in the world. Arizona is one of four states in the “high stress” category. In some cases, strain on water this intense can force residents to forgo showering and maintaining lawns in an effort to ration water.

The federal government's National Climate Assessment, published in November, confirms those water-supply risks for the region will likely grow as "[i]ntensifying droughts, increasing heavy downpours, and reduced snowpack" conspire to stress the water supplies to growing Southwestern cities.

The analysis found that California, which recently emerged from a years-long drought, uses more water than any other state in the country. There, the tug-of-war between the Central Valley's farmers and Southern California's urban centers is a perennial feature of the politics of the nation's most populous state, which ranks No. 2 in the country in terms of water stress.

Even seemingly safe states experience water stress. Colorado, fed by snow melt from the Rockies, uses a tremendous amount of water in its agricultural eastern half. Wisconsin and Minnesota, the latter being the “Land of 10,000 Lakes," have water stress once you move away from the Great Lakes basin. 

Beyond the United States, there are 17 countries across the globe -- which make up about one-fourth of the Earth's population -- at risk of using up all their water, Berkowitz and Blanco note. The New York Times reports from the same data that among cities with more than 3 million people, 33 cities (with a total population of more than 255 million), “face extremely high water stress, with repercussions for public health and social unrest.” That is set to reach 45 cities and a total of almost 470 million people by 2030.

On the flip side, 14 countries have either a high water supply, or a very low demand or both.

Read more here:

Climate and Environment
Pockets in several U.S. states — and across the globe — are draining their limited water supplies.
Bonnie Berkowitz and Adrián Blanco

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Coming Up

  • The Atlantic Council holds a discussion with journalists covering the energy transition on Thursday.
  • The American Wind Energy Association holds its annual American Wind Energy Week starting on Sunday.

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