Do You Worry About Access to Water?

BY Saskia de Melker  March 23, 2012 at 5:14 PM EDT

Kids play in a fountain in downtown Seattle; Creative Commons photo courtesy Flickr user clogozm

The extreme drought and record-breaking temperatures across the Southwest have highlighted crucial issues with the region’s water supply system. As the population grows and climate forecasts anticipate dry conditions, the need to ensure secure water sources is becoming even more crucial.

All this week, PBS NewsHour has been reporting from Texas on the record high temperatures, depleted groundwater, vanishing lakes and how many are tapping into a wellspring of alternative approaches to adapt.

To get a better understanding of how big the problem is, we wanted to learn more about the limitations of water supplies across the nation. With the help of American Public Media’s Public Insight Network, we asked readers to share their thoughts and concerns about their own access to water. Here are a few excerpts from responses we received:

Sarah Mattson | Tucson, Ariz.

Living in the desert, we are hyper-aware of water use. We joke that Tucsonans can smell clouds. Still, I think we could all do more to conserve water. The good news is that by conserving and by supplementing the water supply with Colorado River water, groundwater levels are rising in some areas of the valley. However, to truly maintain a sustainable water supply for a city population, I feel more creative and innovative means need to be devised. For instance, why are we flushing drinking water down our toilets? What would it take to recycle household water through toilets? How can we make safer use of our “gray” water for landscape and garden watering? How can we better deal with the greater strain on the water supply from the mining and agriculture industries without sacrificing those necessary industries?

Kevin Mills | Cypress, Texas

We were under a voluntary water rationing from around May 2011, until December. This combined with the higher than normal temperatures caused many lawns in our neighborhood to brown, and killed many area trees. The bonus was, I only had to mow my lawn 4 or 5 times this summer, but next time I would like to be more prepared, and have other solutions, including a rain barrel, proper roof gutter routing, distributed drainage, and soil aeration. If I can maximize the efficiency of water usage on my lawn, I will only need to use a small fraction of the water most lawns would need to grow a healthy, green lawn that can keep things slightly cooler in the blistering summer heat.

Sara Smith Gates | Las Vegas, Nev.

Water has been available, but there has been discussion of rationing. There has been some relief in the last year, but there are many stories about having to build a pipeline to bring water from northern Nevada to southern Nevada as well as the building of another “tube” to access the lowest level of water available in Lake Mead. The Southern Water Authority levees fines if households do not follow watering schedules and discourages the use of unnatural plantings such as grasses.

George Dies | Aptos, Calif.

Water has already become a hot-button issue on the central coast of California. South of here, Monterey has proposed a desalination plant, generating a great deal of controversy. The city of Santa Cruz, just north of our water district, certified a petition for the November ballot challenging the recommendation of the local water district for a desalination plant. Our district, Soquel Creek, is in danger of permanently damaging the aquifer. Meanwhile, this has been to date an exceptionally dry winter (rain is running approximately 50 percent of normal through the end of January, in the hills above Santa Cruz). I am on a working group exploring new avenues of economic development for Santa Cruz and Monterey counties, and we fear that water restrictions will be an impediment to job creation.

Francille Radmann | San Antonio, Texas

San Antonio does a good job related to conservation and water quality. I’m grateful to live in an area with a good supply and forward thinking, publicly owned utilities. My fear is that Texas politicians with interests in the sale of water will weaken laws the Edwards Aquifer Authority uses to protect our water supply. I also fear increased population forcing the city to look more widely for supplies and in the process to make some bad deals.

Have you noticed changes to the climate in your backyard? Share your insights with us here.