Tuesday, September 27, 2022

Vox asks and answers 'Who's really using up the water in the American West?'

It's time for a story I tell my students as Vox asks and answers Who's really using up the water in the American West?

Hint: water scarcity in the Western US has more to do with our diets than our lawns.
The Western United States is currently battling the most severe drought in thousands of years. A mix of bad water management policies and manmade climate change has created a situation where water supplies in Western reservoirs are so low, states are being forced to cut their water use.

It’s not hard to find media coverage that focuses on the excesses of residential water use: long showers, swimming pools, lawn watering, at-home car washes. Or in the business sector, like irrigating golf courses or pumping water into hotel fountains in Las Vegas.

But when a team of researchers looked at water use in the West, they uncovered a very different story about where most Western water goes. Their findings may hold the solution to dwindling water supplies in the West.
When I lecture about groundwater in geology and water use in environmental science, I point out that irrigation for agriculture is the number one use of water while showing my students this bar graph.

It takes a lot of water to grow our food, especially in warm, dry climates like the western U.S. The video does such a good job of depicting that I think I'll add it to my lecture.

In a different lecture, I tell my students to reduce meat consumption as part of The Sustainability Dozen. I usually point out how raising animals for meat requires more land than growing crops, increasing environmental impact and potentially reducing the ability to feed a growing population, to say nothing about how beef cattle contribute to climate change. Now I can add water demand to that list. Welcome to blogging as professional development.


  1. Gosh, let's grow tomatoes and corn in the middle of a fucking desert! What could possibly go wrong?

    1. The spam filter didn't like your swearing, so I had to approve it myself. That written, I understand your disgust.