The West’s lifeblood
Water is arguably the West’s most precious natural resource, and in this slide deck we explore how people and climate change are altering the region’s hydrology.Download Slides: Water in the American West (40.76 MB pptx)
Download Notes: Water in the American West (5.96 MB pdf)
Download Data: Water in the American West (1.35 MB xlsx)
- The American West is facing a water crisis that is being compounded by population growth and climate change.
- In most parts of the West, water is an especially scarce resource. The 11 coterminous Western states average just 18 inches of precipitation per year compared to 37 inches for the United States as a whole.
- Scientists believe climate change will make the Southwest even drier and shrink the snowpack in many locations.
- Although per capita water use has declined over the past few decades, total municipal demand is increasing as cities continue to grow.
- Laws like the Clean Water Act have reduced pollution, and Western streams tend to have better water quality than streams in other regions. Lakes, meanwhile, are in poorer condition. Nutrient loading and degraded lakeshore habitat pose the greatest threats in the West.
- The nation’s water infrastructure is crumbling, with hundreds of billions required to fix dams, levees, sewage plants, and drinking water systems.
- Looking ahead, proposed water management strategies include water conservation, water reuse, reforms to state water laws, expanded water markets, and desalination.
- Drop on the planet: 3 visualizations of Earth’s most precious natural resource
- Plotting “dead pool” and other watersheds for Lake Powell and Lake Mead
- Streamer tool traces rivers from sources to sea
- An interactive map of water risk and stress
- Visualizing Colorado River challenges and options
- Flow diagrams of U.S. and Western water use
- A dashboard for monitoring drought
- Survey says: water bills are rising
- 2012 Graphics Highlights from The New York Times