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Water managers in 36 states expect shortages by 2013.

Source: The Wall Street Journal

worldwide, and even more in the west- ern United States. Getting more crop per drop is central to meeting future food needs sustainably. California farmers are turning to drip irrigation, which delivers water at low volumes directly to the roots of crops. According to U.S. Department of Agriculture figures, be- tween 2003 and 2008, California’s drip and micro-sprinkler area expanded by 630,000 acres, to a total of 2.3 million acres—62 percent of the nation’s total drip irrigation.

Community-based education and rebates to encourage water-thrifty land- scapes can help. Las Vegas, for exam- ple, pays residents up to $1.50 for each square foot of grass they rip out, which has helped shrink the city’s turf area by 125 million square feet and lower its annual water use by 7 billion gallons. The water crisis requires us to pay attention to how we value and use water. Across the country, it’s essential that communities work to take care of the ecosystems that supply and cleanse water, to live within their water means and to share water equitably.

Sandra Postel is director of the Global Water Policy Project, a fellow of the Post Carbon Institute and a Freshwater Fellow of the National Geographic Society. She adapted this article, based on her chapter, “Water – Adapting to a New Normal,” in The Post Carbon Reader: Managing the 21st Century’s Sustainability Crises, edited by Richard Heinberg and Daniel Lerch, and a piece published in Yes! ( For more information, visit and National

Ways to Lighten Your Water Footprint

Eat less meat. A study published in Agricultural Water Management shows that if all U.S. residents re- duced their consumption of animal products by half, the nation’s total dietary water requirement in 2025 would drop by 261 billion cubic meters per year, a savings equal to 14 times the annual flow of the Colorado River.

Ditch bottled water. Per the U.S. Government Accountability Office, putting water in plastic bottles and shipping it just 125 miles uses 1,100 times more energy than produc- ing tap water. The Pacific Institute calculates that it takes three liters of water to produce one liter of bottled water.

Create eco-friendly landscapes. Statistics published in Environmental Management confirm that turf grass currently covers some 40.5 million acres in the United States—triple the space taken up by any single U.S. ir- rigated farm crop. Converting thirsty lawns into native, drought-tolerant landscaping significantly drops house- hold water use.

Be water-wise at home. Visit the United States Environmental Protection Agency’s online WaterSense page at to learn simple ways to save water, energy and money.

Calculate personal water use at National Geographic’s tinyurl. com/274jo6v or

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