The Increasing Demand and Decreasing Supply of Water

Did you know?

  • Water managers in 40 states expect water shortages in some portion of their states in the next 10 years.
  • Water consumption has tripled globally in the last 50 years.

In many areas of the United States, the demand for freshwater is likely to increase while supplies decrease due, in part, to a changing climate. Other contributing factors include an increase in human population, and changes in land use and energy generation.

Freshwater is primarily used for irrigation and electric power plant cooling (77%), municipal and industrial uses (20%), and livestock and aquaculture (3%) in the United States. These water demands are expected to increase in a changing climate due to changes in temperature and precipitation. For example, an increase in temperature also increases the consumption of water by people, animals, and plants to maintain their health.

As warmer temperatures increase the demand for water, the amount of freshwater available may decline and increase competition for water resources in some areas. For example, in a warming climate, increased rates of evaporation and decreases in snowpack will decrease the supply of freshwater in some US river systems and groundwater available for human use.

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The graphs below compare the expected percent change in water demand in the US from 2005 to 2060 with and without climate change. ‘With climate change’ indicates a scenario where current greenhouse gas emission trends continue and ‘without climate change’ indicates a scenario where greenhouse gas emissions are reduced. 

What you can do:

  • NEEF teamed up with EPA’s Office of Water to provide the public with helpful facts and tips on a wide variety of water issues. Hear from Beth Livingston on the importance of saving water outside.

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