Water stress and social vulnerability in the southern United States, 2010-2040

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Water scarcities are striking in semiarid, subregions of the Southern United States such as Oklahoma and western Texas (Glennon 2009, Sabo et al. 2010). In Texas, water stress has been a constant concern since the 1950s when the state experienced severe drought conditions (Moore 2005). The nearly 2000-mile Rio Grande River, which forms part of the Texas–Mexico border, is the sole source of groundwater for residents and businesses at the far western part of the state. The river also provides water for Ciudad Juarez in Mexico. Because of its strategic location, the Rio Grande is a site of water contestation between United States and Mexican concerns (Szydlowski 2007). To the east, a 3-year, state-level dispute over water rights involved North and South Carolina, as each state struggled to assert rights to the waters of the 225-mile Catawba River, which flows through the two states. The Catawba is a source of domestic water for more than one million residents and provides electricity to nearly double that number of consumers. The dispute was settled amicably in 2010, but these examples illustrate that the oftentimes, taken-for-granted assumptions of freshwater access in industrialized nations are being challenged by decreasing supplies, resulting from both existing and projected climatic changes.

  • Citation: Johnson-Gaither, cassandra; Schelhas, John; Zipperer, Wayne; Sun, Ge; Caldwell, Peter V.; Poudyal, Neelam 2014. Water stress and social vulnerability in the southern United States, 2010-2040. In: Climate change adaption and mitigation management optionsA guide for natural resource managers in southern forest ecosystems CRC Press - Taylor and Francis (pp 61 - 84) 24 p.

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