Water Scarcity: Just Take A Shorter Shower by Joseph Reiff

Currently, the United States faces an extreme water crisis. Decreasing precipitation and a rapidly increasing population in the country both threaten the country’s freshwater sources which are crucial for drinking, washing, and cooking. The United States’ freshwater supply is in extreme danger. The impacts of climate change continue to decrease precipitation and directly exacerbate water scarcity in the United States. In fact, the freshwater supply diminished by about a third in various regions throughout the country over the last 50 years. [1] Thus, it is crucial that the United States attempt to minimize the effects of water scarcity through investment in desalination plants and a targeted media strategy urging Americans to reduce their water consumption.

Decreasing precipitation in the United States further cements the diminishing supply of water throughout the country. Even though the nation’s water consumption continues to decrease, according to the Resources Planning Act Assessment, by 2071 nearly half of the freshwater basins in the United States will be unable to meet the country’s water demand. [2] The diminishing supply of water spurs future water scarcity; thus, the U.S. will continue facing increasingly severe water shortages. Meanwhile, as the United States continues warming, evaporation increases and the water supply decreases. More specifically, every one degree temperature increase in the Salt Lake City region could lead to a decrease in the regions surrounding streams’ annual water flow by around 6.5 percent. [3] Thus, the rapid increase in temperatures in the United States heavily contributes to the country’s diminishing water supply.

Additionally, the current U.S. population growth rate translates to an increase in water demand. By 2100, the U.S. population will be around 514 million which will only further deplete the water supply. Meanwhile, groundwater continues to be extracted at a faster rate than it is replenished, therefore, there must be a drastic increase in precipitation or a significant decrease in average water usage if the United States hopes to keep up with increasing water demand. Ultimately, the effects of decreasing water supply and increasing water demand will only continue to worsen in conjunction with population growth and climate change. Thus, the United States must focus on desalination and conservation in order to minimize the effects of water scarcity.

As water scarcity increases, the United States must continue investing in desalination plants, a technique used to convert sea water into drinking water and to treat contaminated water. In dry regions plagued by droughts, such as California, these desalination plants are crucial. In fact, in California, there are currently 11 desalination plants and 10 more proposed, each of which creates 50 million gallons of freshwater a day. [4] Even though the country’s water supply continues diminishing due to global warming, rapid population growth, and decreased precipitation, investing in the desalination process is a necessary measure that the United States must take in an attempt to stabilize the freshwater supply.

Additionally, it is crucial that Americans reduce water usage in order to keep up with increasing water demand and decreasing water supply. Los Angeles has achieved major success in water conservation: since the 1970s, the population has grown by a million people while water usage stagnated. [5] The prime example of taking a shorter shower can significantly decrease the average Americans’ water use, thus, the government must take advantage of the media in order to enlighten citizens on methods to decrease water consumption and the importance of water conservation. Overall, investing in desalination plants and using media to urge conservation are two necessary steps the U.S. must take in the attempt to mitigate the impacts of water scarcity.


  1. Heggie, Jon. “Why Is America Running out of Water?” Science, National Geographic, 10 Feb. 2021, www.nationalgeographic.com/science/article/partner-content-americas-looming-water-crisis#:~:text=Shortages%20won’t%20affect%20only,the%20South%2C%20and%20the%20Midwest.
  2. Wilkerson, Jordan. “Future Widespread Water Shortage Likely in U.S.” Science in the News, 20 Mar. 2019, sitn.hms.harvard.edu/flash/2019/widespread-water-shortage-likely-in-u-s-caused-by-population-growth-and-climate-change/.
  3. Heggie, Jon. “Why Is America Running out of Water?” Science, National Geographic, 10 Feb. 2021, www.nationalgeographic.com/science/article/partner-content-americas-looming-water-crisis#:~:text=Shortages%20won’t%20affect%20only,the%20South%2C%20and%20the%20Midwest.
  4. Robbins, Jim. “As Water Scarcity Increases, Desalination Plants Are on the Rise.” Yale E360, 11 June 2019, e360.yale.edu/features/as-water-scarcity-increases-desalination-plants-are-on-the-rise.
  5. Heggie, Jon. “Why Is America Running out of Water?” Science, National Geographic, 10 Feb. 2021, www.nationalgeographic.com/science/article/partner-content-americas-looming-water-crisis#:~:text=Shortages%20won’t%20affect%20only,the%20South%2C%20and%20the%20Midwest.

6 thoughts on “Water Scarcity: Just Take A Shorter Shower by Joseph Reiff

  1. Hi Joseph! Thanks so much for compiling all of this information! I feel like I remember water conservation being a huge focus of environmental campaigns when I was younger, but I haven’t heard about it as much since, so it was really interesting to get an update on where we are now. I also thought it was really interesting that you brought up water scarcity in terms of a supply shortage. Most of the rhetoric around water conservation I’ve heard tends to emphasize overutilization on the demand side, perhaps because that is easier to corral and curtail than the availability of supply. I think it really helped outline how much all climate concerns are interrelated,, like when a temperature increase leads to more evaporation, which in turn leads to a water shortage. Thank you so much for bringing it up!

  2. Hello Joseph,

    Really interesting piece. I liked that you took a large problem and presented two types of solutions – one that is easy to accomplish at the individual level (shorter showers) and one high-level intervention (desalination). I was especially interested in desalination plants, and found an article that gives a good rundown of what they are, where they are being built, and the problems that come with them (https://e360.yale.edu/features/as-water-scarcity-increases-desalination-plants-are-on-the-rise). Though they are very helpful in that they provide a source of reliable water for drought-racked places in California, they also unfortunately create “brine” as a byproduct which causes pollution problems and traps and kills small animals on the intake screen. It will be interesting to see if they can develop the technology further in coming years to solve these problems, but overall it seems like a promising part of the solution!

    1. Hi Joseph. Very interesting blog. I personally do not know much about water scarcity as an environmental issue and I was shocked that it appeared such an urgent problem. Your blog very well outlined the urgency of the issues, I think you have a knack for problem framing because it certainly made me go “Why isn’t the government and the public more concerned about?”. As far as desalination plants, I wonder if some of Biden’s research investment plans for climate change include research and investment in desalination efficiency. and construction. I was also wondering about the costs of building, running, and maintaining desalination plants and how we might convince business/economy stakeholders they’re a good idea since the controversial nature of environmental policy is often eased with economic rhetoric. I got curious and decided to look it up, here’s an interesting source I found: https://www.nap.edu/read/12184/chapter/8

  3. I was not very familiar with desalination plants prior to reading this blog. They seem like an effective strategy to increase the country’s water supply. Media coverage encouraging people to reduce their water usage may be trickier. I imagine shorter showers are unappealing for some people since giving up personal pleasures for the good of others is not a common action. How can media coverage effectively incite altruistic behavior in the general public to conserve water?

  4. Hi Joseph! I really enjoyed your blog post! I take access to clean, safe drinking water for granted and I know there is a lot I can do to help minimize my impact (I am definitely guilty of taking too long of showers). I was not aware of the severity of the issue in the United States, and I think you raise a really good point here talking about the dual solution of desalinization and decreasing consumption. I think a lot of people (myself included) put too much faith in desalinization and it is important to remember that cutting back consumption will be key.

  5. Joseph, I really enjoyed this blog post. I am from the Los Angeles area in California and can specifically remember water usage becoming a big talking point at school and in the news about ten years ago. Being aware of water usage where I live has been very prevalent since then and something myself and my family continue to try and do our part with. The city that my grandparents live in even has a time limit as to when you are legally allowed to water your grass/plants. I agree with your point about water conservation and the actions we can all take to help in our everyday lives needs to be advertised more. I also did not know about the desalination plants that California has, so thanks for teaching a California native something new about my state!

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