how the United States and Mexico are fighting water scarcity

In this week of very high heat and in the prospect of a summer with very little rain, French water companies are calling on users to “sobriety” on Tuesday, June 14. In the Southeast, firefighters are preparing for a particularly difficult summer season. What are the measures taken elsewhere in the world to deal with this lack of water, a consequence of global warming? Response in the United States and Mexico.

California is considering a total watering ban

In the United States, Lake Powell, the second largest reservoir in the country, is at its lowest level since its creation in 1963. The state of California where it is located is 97% in a state of more or less advanced drought. , 12% of the territory is even classified as “exceptional drought”, the highest level. At the beginning of the year, this rate was 0%. The concern rises before the summer.

There was almost no precipitation in January, February and March. It’s during the winter that California stocks up on the Sierra Mountains. Snow that, when it melts, flows down to the hundreds of reservoirs in the Golden State which then supply water to millions of Californians. Except that these snow reserves are at less than 40% of their usual level. And the tanks are already below their usual capacity.

Lake Oroville, California’s largest reservoir, is at 55% and Lake Shasta at its lowest level since 1976. This is not a phenomenon unique to 2022. In California, we speak of a “megadrought”. . The first two decades of the 21st century would be the driest of the last 1,200 years in western Canada. A consequence, in part, due to global warming.

The California government has reduced the amount of water allocated to the agencies that distribute it. These agencies therefore in turn had to make certain decisions. Since June 1, six million Californians have been under restrictions. In several counties in southern California, lawn watering is limited to eight minutes twice a week, under penalty of a fine and sometimes after denunciation of its neighbor. The days are determined according to your address, Monday and Wednesday if you live at an even number for example. If these measures are not enough, the authorities reserve the right to completely ban watering from September.

To those who complain that their lawns may not stay green, the director of the Metropolitan Water District, the largest agency in Southern California, replies: “We can no longer afford green lawns.” Last summer, the Governor of California asked residents to save 15% of their water consumption. This consumption increased by 18% between April 2021 and April 2022. The call was not heard and the governor could go from suggestion to obligation. What his predecessor had done.

California has high ambitions when it comes to renewable energy. It is aiming for carbon neutrality by 2045. And the Golden State relies in part on hydroelectricity to provide it with about 15% of its energy. Obviously, it is more complicated in times of drought. This rate could drop to 8% this summer. However, very high temperatures are expected. Californians could then force on the air conditioning with the risk of blackout. And then, agriculture, we forget, remains a very important sector of the local economy. She has been making water conservation efforts for years. Some crops are sometimes abandoned, such as the production of almonds, and farmers warn that products may be missing from supermarkets in the fall.

In Monterrey, Mexico, daily water cuts

In Mexico too, drought is raging in the north of the country. In Monterrey, two hours from the border with the United States and an important industrial hub, water is rationed. Water cuts were in place for most of the day. Mexico’s second city, with more than five million inhabitants, is currently thirsty. It is experiencing the worst drought in the last 35 years and comparisons are relative because demographic pressure is much greater today than three decades ago.

For ten days, residents have only had access to running water for six hours a day, between four and ten in the morning. So they stock up, fill buckets of water to meet their needs for the day. And it is forbidden, under pain of a fine, to water the gardens or wash the cars with drinking water. Water cuts are expected to continue for the next few weeks, unless intense rains come to water the region. But the most likely is that precipitation will still be delayed, while temperatures will be around 40 degrees in summer.

Right now, Monterrey’s large water reservoirs are at historic lows, less than 10% capacity. And as the city concentrates a large number of industries, in particular several breweries which have signed important water concessions, these must also give up part of their water reserves to contribute to the common effort.

It is a historic drought but the phenomenon is not new. Mexico has been on drought alert for several years. Since 2015, precipitation has been below its average level. And under the combined effect of the lack of rain and atypical heat waves, the reserves are running out. Specialists point to the lack of foresight of the authorities, who have seen the effects of the drought manifest themselves gradually over the past few years and could have anticipated the catastrophic consequences of this year.

Mexico is now faced with the existence of water trafficking for clandestine sale: drinking water is used in the countryside to save crops. Summer here is a hot season but it is also the rainy season and Mexicans pray that this one does honor to its name and does bring plenty of rainfall.

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