Residents of Eretz Yisroel are not the only ones who are
worried about their water supply. Even the United States is
also facing a water scarcity, but the situation in many other
countries is worse. China, for example, faces more serious
The U.S. has about 5 percent of the world's population but 8
percent of its fresh water. Nevertheless, shortages and
problems are cropping up all over the U.S.
Parts of six counties in a region that borders one of the
world's largest freshwater sources, Lake Michigan, could be in
for serious water shortages within 20 years, a report by a
regional planning commission said. The report surprised people
who live near a lake system that contains one-fifth of the
world's surface fresh water, but did not surprise a handful of
corporations that have been saying that water will be for this
century what oil was for the last.
This year, with shortages appearing in places that have never
doubted the future of their supply, many parts of the United
States have discovered water may indeed be a commodity more
precious than oil.
A general warming trend, sprawl that covers the sponge of land
that normally replenishes the nation's vast underground
reservoirs, and the growing demands of agriculture and
expanding cities are the reasons most often cited for
accelerated water shortages.
Florida's reservoirs below and above ground are badly depleted
and becoming briny with saltwater seepage. People have been
hauled into court and fined for violating strict water
In Kentucky, more than half of the state's 120 counties ran
short of water or were near shortages this year before heavy
rains brought relief.
In the Pacific Northwest, where water is the master architect
of a lush land, too little water has been promised to too many
people, leaving farms and wildlife to wither. Even in the
suburbs around Seattle, on the wet side of the Cascade
Mountains, demand for water is outstripping supply, raising
the prospect of shortages within 20 years.
Some major American cities in the Southwest, including El
Paso, San Antonio and Albuquerque, could go dry in 10 to 20
years. But a number of towns in New England and the well-
watered half of the Midwest are also facing the prospect of
running out of water in a generation's time.
The federal government has offered little guidance. In the
absence of a single power broker, a veritable free-for-all has
emerged, with private companies and individual states and
cities cutting their own deals.
In northeast Kansas, for example, the water shortage is so
severe that state officials are discussing plans to build a
pipeline, costing up to $200 million, to the Missouri River.
But most of the water in the Missouri is already spoken
Some of the other big rivers that have long sustained American
communities are running thin. The Rio Grande is down to a bare
trickle and is so braided with chemicals and salt that animals
that use it are dying.
Most of the U.S.'s fresh water -- about 60 percent -- is out
of sight. It comes from below ground, in rivers and pools
known as aquifers. These aquifers are being depleted at the
same time that surface water is stressed by growing demands
It was the prospect of these growing national water scarcities
that prompted Enron, the Houston-based energy conglomerate, to
enter the water business. But Enron discovered that water was
not as easily corralled as oil or gas. This year, after two
years of foraging for water, Enron's water spinoff collapsed,
reporting losses of more than $300 million and retreated from
the stock market.
In Southern California, a private company, Cadiz, is
negotiating with the agency that provides water for 17 million
people to store water from the Colorado River in a Mojave
Desert aquifer and then sell it back in dry years.
Farms use a majority of American water. Many water experts say
it is inevitable that water to meet future needs will have to
come from agriculture. Some are concerned that the fight over
water will come down to a numbers game, ultimately leaving out