With all the attention focused on California’s water woes, an observer might conclude that the Golden State’s drought is the exception. It isn’t. Forty states expect to see water shortages in at least some areas in the next decade, according to a government watchdog agency.
In a 2013 survey by the Government Accountability Office (GAO), state water managers from around the country said they expect freshwater shortages to continue into the next decade, even under what they described as “average” conditions. If those conditions change—whether because of rapid population growth, unusually low snowfall or rainfall, or accelerated economic growth—the situation could worsen.
“As far as other states, if they haven’t seen it in the past, it’s something they will see in the future,” said Ben Chou, a water policy analyst in the Los Angeles office of the Natural Resources Defense Council, an environmental group.
Late last month, Democratic California Gov. Jerry Brown implementedmandatory water conservation rules. The rules ban all restaurants, bars and hotels from serving water unless customers ask for it, ban the watering of lawns and landscaping within 48 hours of measurable rain, and require municipalities and private companies to limit lawn watering to two days a week.