The Future of US Water Supplies
RFF's Center for the Management of Ecological Wealth hosted a dialogue that discussed findings from a collaborative study released by the American Meteorological Society and explored the potential for economic mechanisms (water pricing, trading, and ecosystem service valuation, for example) to help reduce future gaps between supply and demand.
Two significant agency reports were released in the past year evaluating US water supplies moving forward and the potential of both growth patterns and climatic changes to increase the risk of water shortages. The Bureau of Reclamation (BOR) released the Colorado River Basin Supply and Demand Study, and according to BOR Commissioner Michael Conner, "Findings indicate that in the absence of timely action to ensure sustainability, there exists a strong potential for significant imbalances between water supply and demand in coming decades." The Vulnerability of US Water Supply to Shortage, released by The US Forest Service, focuses more broadly on the lower 48 states and their 98 sub-regional basins. According to that report, the US water supply will be more susceptible to shortages due to changes in supply rather than demand. Although these reports have some limitations (clearly identified in the reports themselves), they provide significant insights into water availability issues over the next 50 to 100 years. Additionally, a collaborative study was released by the American Meteorological Society—Understanding Uncertainties in Future Colorado River Streamflow—that examines and explains the wide range of projected reductions in Colorado River streamflows due to climate change.
Resources for the Future's Center for the Management of Ecological Wealth is hosting a dialogue to discuss these findings and explore the potential for economic mechanisms (water pricing, trading, and ecosystem service valuation, for example) to help reduce future gaps between supply and demand.
Yusuke Kuwayama is a fellow at RFF and an assistant professor in the School of Public Policy at the University of Maryland, Baltimore County.
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