Vulnerable US Cities Face Drought

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SUMMARY: The current La Niña and several long-term natural climate factors will worsen potential drought for the ten US cities that are “running out of water.”

Resources like water can no longer be taken for granted because we are in a period of dramatic climate change. For water users – from the simple gardener to farmers and ranchers to urban managers – this can present horrendous problems. For investors – this can present tremendous opportunities or potential unexpected losses.

10 biggest citiesIncreasingly, water issues have been in the news. The La Niña of 2007 – 2008 triggered widespread water shortages, ranging from a severe and multi-year drought in California to a legal “water-war” between Georgia and its neighbors. The current developing La Niña may force the US to revisit these problems.

The 10 Most Vulnerable Cities

On October 29, this year, Charles B. Stockdale, Michael B. Sauter, and Douglas A. McIntyre, editors of 24/7 Wall St. published an article “The Ten Biggest American Cities That Are Running Out Of Water” on the internet. It reports how vulnerable some of America’s major cities are to water shortages.

The ten city/metropolitan areas mentioned in the article are Orlando, Atlanta, Tucson, Las Vegas, Fort Worth, the San Francisco Bay Area, San Antonio, Phoenix, Houston, and Los Angeles. Notice – all ten cities are in regions that experience drought during La Niñas. Both warm El Niños and cool La Niñas create precipitation extremes, droughts and flooding. However, none to the cities are in areas that are dry during the warm events. In other words, every one of these already troubled cities has the potential to be stressed by this upcoming winter’s event.

The authors got their information for selecting the cities from Sharlene Leurig’s October 2010 report, The Ripple Effect: Water Risk in the Municipal Bond Market for Ceres and Theo Spencer’s July, 2010 report Climate Change, Water, and Risk: Current Water Demands Are Not Sustainable for the National Resources Defense Council (NRDC). They also examined geographic areas which have already been plagued by drought and water shortages.

Both Ceres (formerly the Coalition for Environmentally Responsible Economies) and the NRDC are biased; the first an investor/environmentalist group and the second an environmentalist legal organization. This doesn’t mean their information is incorrect, but it needs to be assessed. Some of their information is based on the IPCC speculation while other information comes from historical and/or scientific studies. Stockdale, Sauter, and McIntyre appear to have intelligently examined the evidence. 

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