Study predicts a very thirsty future for Nebraska
July 30, 2010

A study by Tetra Tech commissioned by the environmental lobbying group the Natural Resources Defense Council predicts that, if everything continues according to current population and water-use trends, Nebraska will face serious water shortages by 2050, or about the time today's toddlers reach middle age. But the report also conducts an analysis based upon the potential effects of climate change, and concludes that most of the Great Plains will lose several inches per year of rainfall if the climate warms, which in turn compounds the effects of the business-as-usual predictions of shortfalls and would place Nebraska at the northern end of a belt of "extreme" water shortages, stretching all the way south to Texas. Iowa is predicted to fare much better under either scenario, but the overall picture, of course, paints a picture of interrelationships across state lines and into river basins and aquifers that will require some strategic thinking to manage wisely. While 2050 seems like a long time into the future, today's projects are often being constructed with a 30-year intended useful working life (which takes them out to 2040), and many projects under design today may not even come to fruition for another decade. Many of the projects we have been involved with since our founding in 1978 are still in operation today, signaling that changes to water availability in 2050 might very well be influenced by civil engineering work undertaken today.

July 2010
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last revised July 2010