THE LIGHTBULB

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
POWER PLAYS

— Senators call on automakers to spurn Trump on mileage standards: A group of 30 Democratic senators sent a letter calling more than a dozen automakers to join an agreement between California and four car manufacturers on fuel economy rules amid an effort by the Trump administration to roll back Obama-era mileage standards. "As representatives of states that signed the Nation’s Clean Car Promise, we believe that General Motors joining this agreement would save consumers money, reduce emissions, and provide regulatory certainty to the auto industry," the lawmakers wrote in a letter to the major U.S. automaker, the Detroit News reports. Michigan Sens. Debbie Stabenow and Gary Peters are notably missing from the list of senators who sent out the letters, per the report.

More on the car rule: The White House says the rollback of fuel economy standards will be a boon for auto industry jobs, but that’s a reversal from an earlier finding from the Trump administration that in fact tens of thousands of jobs could be lost, E&E News reports. An administration analysis last summer suggested the rollback could lead to the loss of 60,000 jobs. But after a report from BlueGreen Alliance, a coalition of labor and environmental groups, last week said hundreds of thousands of jobs could be slashed, the White House pushed back. Spokesman Judd Deere told E&E News the move "could increase new vehicle sales by 1 million through [model year] 2029, and will lead to more jobs for Americans."

— New Mexico governor blasts Trump admin over PFAS at military bases: New Mexico Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham (D) says the federal government failed to protect the public's health because the Environmental Protection Agency did not provide support in a legal case against the U.S. Air Force over the contamination of per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances, or PFAS, at two bases there. “The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s decision to not do everything under its current enforcement authorities — whether judicial or administrative — is inconsistent with its mission to protect public health and the environment,” Lujan Grisham wrote, according to the Associated Press. But the EPA previously told New Mexico officials it was not allowed to take legal action against another federal agency. "In the letter to New Mexico officials, the EPA said it has committed ‘substantial assistance’ to New Mexico and other states to help address the challenges related to PFAS contamination,” the AP reports.

— The “gold standard” in FOIA strategy: As it developed its controversial policy for Freedom of Information Act requests, the Interior Department consulted with the FBI, known for a strategy of responding to records requests at a slower pace, the Hill reports. “I understand from my discussions with the US Attorney’s Office in D.C. that the FBI’s FOIA program and strategy in FOIA litigation is pretty much the 'gold standard,’ ” an official with Interior’s Office of the Solicitor wrote to an FBI official in April 2018, one of a set of internal emails obtained via FOIA request by Earthjustice and shared with the publication. Thomas Cmar, a lawyer with Earthjustice, took issue with the communications with the FBI, saying it “says a lot about Interior’s point of view on transparency that they are looking for examples on efforts trying to clamp down on transparency as models for how the agency should adopt its procedures.”

— A call to end wolf hunting days before season begins at Denali: A group of more than five dozen residents and advocates in Alaska have called on the Alaska Department of Fish and Game commissioner and the state Board of Game to end wolf hunting in part of Denali National Park. “Group members do not assert there is a threat to wolf populations at large, only that packs inhabiting the Denali road corridor are at risk,” the Associated Press reports. “The National Park Service has submitted its own proposal to the game board requesting a partial closure to wolf hunting.”

DAYBOOK

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.
EXTRA MILEAGE

— Where you can see a “pristine” night sky: A new study published in the Journal of Environmental Management found there are just a few places across the nation where people can still see such a sky, The Post’s Christopher Ingraham reports. “Generally speaking, most of the remaining pristine skies are concentrated in rural parts of the western United States. But pockets of unblemished night can still be found in parts of northern Minnesota, Michigan and Maine. Most of Alaska and parts of Hawaii also contain unspoiled skies,” he writes.