Climate Change, Water, and Risk: Current Water Demands Are Not Sustainable

This report summarizes the results of an analysis performed by consulting firm Tetra Tech for the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) in 2010, examining the effects of global warming on water supply and demand in the contiguous United States. 

This study projects more than one-third of all counties in the contiguous U.S. will face higher risks of water shortages by mid-century as the result of global warming. More than 400 of these counties will face extremely high risks of water shortages on the same time frame. These areas include parts of Arizona, Arkansas, California, Colorado, Florida, Idaho, Kansas, Mississippi, Montana, Nebraska, Nevada, New Mexico, Oklahoma, and Texas. In particular, in the Great Plains and Southwest United States, water sustainability is at extreme risk.

The goal of this analysis was to estimate future renewable water supply compared with water demand, assuming a business-as-usual scenario of growth in demand for electricity production and domestic use, both largely driven by population growth, with other demands remaining at their present levels. In addition to providing the most current analysis of these impacts, this report is also the most comprehensive quantitative assessment of water supply and demand under future climate scenarios performed to date.

This analysis shows that climate change will have significant impacts on water supplies throughout the country in the coming decades, with over 1,100 counties facing greater risks of water shortages due to the effects of climate change. This conclusion has significant implications for future water management and climate change adaptation planning efforts.






Publication Date: July 2010

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