Understanding water crisis in North America

June 07 2020 • By Admin

Why North America and not the whole world?

Water crisis is a common problem throughout the world. But the method to tackle may vary from place to place due to many factors like climate, geographical region, variablity of water resources,etc. Our algorithm is more effective for North America because of the population, development and drainage system in North America. Our project focuses on smart water management helping people use their own part of water they generally use throughout the year to be used more efficiently. Our algorithm is not effective to geographical regions where people face water crisis and drought for a long period, resulting in lack of average daily use of water, so they cannot afford to donate water.

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Baseline water stress
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Water bodies in North America

What are the reasons behind the water crisis in North America?

The water pipes used in many cities across the United States were installed between 70 to 90 years ago. In Washington DC, the average age of existing water pipes is 77 years. This is a real shame considering that the United States is the most developed country in the world as well as the richest nation on the planet, but it’s not able to deliver clean drinking water to it’s citizens safely and efficiently. Take the case of Flint, MI, where the city supplied dirty water contaminated with unbelievable quantities of lead. This was a classic example of areas in which the country is lagging behind. Every single year, an average of 240,000 water breaks are reported. The cost of repairing these broken pipes is incredibly high. In fact, 75% of the cost of drinking water can be attributed to pipe repair costs. On average, 1.7 trillion gallons of water is wasted every year due to broken pipes and lack of pipe replacement.

Currently, there are 156,000 public water systems that provide clean drinking water to around 320 million people through 700,000 miles of piping crisscrossing the country. According to the American Water Works Association, 40% of the country’s water infrastructure is considered poor. The American Society for Civil Engineers has given the United States a D+ grade for the poor state of its water infrastructure. This is shocking considering the country is a first-world country. In February, 2015, over 100,000 gallons of water leaked into area streets of Hollywood Hills, CA. This was a huge wastage that was blamed on obsolete plumbing, and it cost the city a lot money. Local residents were also adversely affected since they did not have water in their taps for several days.

An investment of more than $1 trillion is needed to improve the buried water infrastructure nationwide over the next 25 years. This is if pipes are replaced at the end of their useful life. Replacement needs account for 54% of the national investment with 46% going to expansion of new pipes. This ensures that more communities get clean drinking water while obsolete water supply lines are replaced at the same time.

While there are many projects being implemented across the United States, the country still has a long way to go in terms of ensuring that every citizen has safe drinking water over the next 100 years. More water infrastructure improvement projects are currently underway and others are still being debated by local authorities.

According to Harvard University, by 2071, nearly half of the 204 fresh water basins in the United States may not be able to meet the monthly water demand. These model projections, recently published in the journal Earth’s Future, are just one preliminary component of the upcoming Resources Planning Act (RPA) Assessment expected to be published next year. In 1974, congress required that this assessment of US renewable resources be published every 10 years.

The water shortages may especially impact U.S. agriculture. Irrigated agriculture often accounts for around 75% of the annual consumption of water from these basins. The authors point out, though, that this also makes agriculture a clear area for reducing water use. Up to 96 fresh water basins are projected to face shortages. Reducing water use for irrigation by just 2% could prevent shortages in a third of these basins. For others, though, the reduction must be greater – often over 30%. The authors say it’s unlikely that agriculture will be the only facet of society to adapt. Still, the agricultural sector “is likely to face serious challenges.” Accordingly, the findings raise concerns about both future water security and food security in the U.S.

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