Most Americans are more than aware of the frequent water shortages that often plague Californians. They result from droughts, which in recent years, have both intensified and increased in frequency in response to rising global temperatures, especially in traditionally dry, arid regions. These shortages have been met with restrictive policies that limit individuals’ consumption levels, levy increased prices on water suppliers and a variety of mandates designed to lower statewide uses of water. However, very little attention has been given to rising incidents of drought in other areas of the country, specifically the southeast, and how water shortages could soon be a reality that many in the region deal with in their daily lives.
In 2007 and 2008, the southeast experienced major droughts, bringing issues surrounding limit water supplies to the public. Along with an increasing number of droughts in the southeast region of the US, rising sea levels threaten the area’s fresh water supply. Global temperature increases have continued to melt polar ice caps, and each year, this process releases more water into our oceans, causing gradual sea-level elevation. While rising sea levels might sound beneficial for our country’s water supply, it actually threatens to contaminate coastal freshwater sources with saltwater. To combat the contamination of freshwater, expensive desalination processes would have to implemented along the coast, likely raising prices for water and lowering its availability simultaneously. This threat is especially dangerous for the state of Maryland, where a huge portion of the state relies on coastal supplies of freshwater.
Compounding issues of increased drought and rising sea levels is the region’s exponential rates of population growth. Ten of the fifteen fastest growing cities in the United States were located in the region; additionally, the South as a whole leads the nation in comprehensive population growth. Influxes of new people place additional pressure on local water supplies, causing increases in water costs and ultimately instigating the gradual depletion of water sources in the region.
A warming planet and rising sea levels working in conjunction with the rapid urbanization and population growth of the southeast has forced concerns about water shortages in the near future to be taken seriously. Sadly, most efforts to combat this progression have proven insufficient. Local policies of limited water consumption often go ignored by the general public, and rising water prices have only increased socio-economic disparities in water access. Therefore, it is even more vital this issue is addressed on the grassroots level. Community members should organize to limit their own consumption of water, support general policies that combat climate change and raise awareness amongst their friends and families.