Roadmap for sustainable water resources in southwestern North America.

  • Gleick P
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The management of water resources in arid and semiarid areas has long
been a challenge, from ancient Mesopotamia to the modern southwestern
United States. As our understanding of the hydrological and climatological
cycles has improved, and our ability to manipulate the hydrologic
cycle has increased, so too have the challenges associated with managing
a limited natural resource for a growing population. Modern civilization
has made remarkable progress in water management in the past few
centuries. Burgeoning cities now survive in desert regions, relying
on a mix of simple and complex technologies and management systems
to bring adequate water and remove wastewater. These systems have
permitted agricultural production and urban concentrations to expand
in regions previously thought to have inadequate moisture. However,
evidence is also mounting that our current management and use of
water is unsustainable. Physical, economic, and ecological limits
constrain the development of new supplies and additional water withdrawals,
even in regions not previously thought vulnerable to water constraints.
New kinds of limits are forcing water managers and policy makers
to rethink previous assumptions about population, technology, regional
planning, and forms of development. In addition, new threats, especially
the challenges posed by climatic changes, are now apparent. Sustainably
managing and using water in arid and semiarid regions such as the
southwestern United States will require new thinking about water
in an interdisciplinary and integrated way. The good news is that
a wide range of options suggest a roadmap for sustainable water management
and use in the coming decades.

Author-supplied keywords

  • Agriculture; Climate Change; Conservation of Natur
  • methods; Ecology; Humans; Policy; Population Grow

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  • Peter H Gleick

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