Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

Water Shortages In Northeast Linked To Human Activity

Date:
May 18, 2006
Source:
The Earth Institute at Columbia University
Summary:
Recent water shortages in Rockland County, N.Y., reveal an increasing mismatch between water demand and supply following rapid growth in the Northeast during period of abnormally high precipitation.

Recent water shortages in Rockland County, N.Y., reveal an increasing mismatch between water demand and supply following rapid growth in the Northeast during period of abnormally high precipitation

Related Articles


With the summer approaching, new research has shown that recent water emergencies in the Northeast have resulted from more than just dry weather. Instead, researchers from The Earth Institute at Columbia University found droughts had more direct, human causes. The result is a condition known as demand-driven drought that may catch more water managers and residents off-guard in coming years.

The study, which appeared in a recent issue of Journal of the American Water Resources Association was conducted by Bradfield Lyon at the International Research Institute for Climate and Society (IRI), Nicholas Christie-Blick at Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory and Yekaterina Gluzberg from the Department of Ecology, Evolution and Environmental Biology. They examined precipitation variability and drought in Rockland County, N.Y. over the last 100 years and found that factors such as development, population growth, and failing water supply systems played as significant a role as climate in creating the water emergencies.

"The balance between water demand and supply is now so finely tuned that even a few months of lower than normal precipitation is sufficient to trigger an emergency," said Christie-Blick. "Rockland County is ill-prepared to deal with the severe drought conditions that we know recur on a scale of tens to hundreds of years."

Located 24 miles northwest of New York City, Rockland County is in many respects a typical suburban county in the Northeast. In a landscape dotted with lakes and ponds, traversed by the Ramapo River and bordered by the Hudson River, the region might appear to be highly resilient to drought. However, between 1995 and 2002, the county declared three drought emergencies, the most recent of which one county official called "the worst on record." Research shows, however, that, although unusually dry weather contributed to these emergencies, their severity indicates an increasing imbalance between water demand and supply driven largely by human factors.

"There were certainly droughts during the three recent water emergencies, but by several measures, they were far from exceptional," said Lyon. "In terms of accumulated rainfall deficit and duration, the drought from the 1960s was larger by a factor of three than what we've seen more recently."

By examining tree-ring and rain-gauge records, the researchers found that the most rapid increase in the population of Rockland County occurred over a 30-year period that was relatively wet for the region. Another significant cause was that the aging water supply system had not been upgraded to keep pace with growing demand, thus making it more vulnerable to failure, even within the normal range of climate conditions.

The result is that the criteria for declaring a drought emergency—when water demand is anticipated to exceed supply—are expected to be met in Rockland County with increasing frequency, a situation that is likely to become more common throughout the Northeast. The researchers' findings also reinforce the fact that, instead of pointing to climate forces that are beyond local control, groups most concerned with water demand, such as community planners and developers, and those that focus on supply, such as water resource managers, must work together more effectively to come up with solutions.

"It’s going to require taking a hard look at the options and deciding you either have to increase your supply or deal with the demand side of the equation to keep things in balance," said Lyon.

The Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory, a member of The Earth Institute at Columbia University, is one of the world's leading research centers examining the planet from its core to its atmosphere, across every continent and every ocean. From global climate change to earthquakes, volcanoes, environmental hazards and beyond, Observatory scientists provide the basic knowledge of Earth systems needed to inform the future health and habitability of our planet.

The International Research Institute for Climate and Society (IRI), part of the Earth Institute at Columbia University, aims to enhance society’s ability to understand, anticipate and manage the impact of seasonal climate fluctuations, so as to improve the quality of life and the environment. From environmental monitoring and forecasting to climate-related risk management tools and practices in water resources, public health, agriculture, and food security, IRI and its partners focus on opportunities to build capacity for bringing climate information into regional planning and decision-making.

About The Earth Institute
The Earth Institute at Columbia University is the world's leading academic center for the integrated study of Earth, its environment and society. The Earth Institute builds upon excellence in the core disciplines — earth sciences, biological sciences, engineering sciences, social sciences and health sciences — and stresses cross-disciplinary approaches to complex problems. Through research, training and global partnerships, it mobilizes science and technology to advance sustainable development, while placing special emphasis on the needs of the world's poor.


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by The Earth Institute at Columbia University. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Cite This Page:

The Earth Institute at Columbia University. "Water Shortages In Northeast Linked To Human Activity." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 18 May 2006. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2006/05/060517185226.htm>.
The Earth Institute at Columbia University. (2006, May 18). Water Shortages In Northeast Linked To Human Activity. ScienceDaily. Retrieved November 28, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2006/05/060517185226.htm
The Earth Institute at Columbia University. "Water Shortages In Northeast Linked To Human Activity." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2006/05/060517185226.htm (accessed November 28, 2014).

Share This


More From ScienceDaily



More Earth & Climate News

Friday, November 28, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

Scientists Find Invisible Space Shield Protecting Earth

Scientists Find Invisible Space Shield Protecting Earth

Newsy (Nov. 27, 2014) — An invisible barrier is keeping dangerous super fast electrons from interfering with our atmosphere, but scientists aren't entirely sure how. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Bolivian Recycling Initiative Turns Plastic Waste Into School Furniture

Bolivian Recycling Initiative Turns Plastic Waste Into School Furniture

Reuters - Innovations Video Online (Nov. 26, 2014) — Innovative recycling project in La Paz separates city waste and converts plastic garbage into school furniture made from 'plastiwood'. Tara Cleary reports. Video provided by Reuters
Powered by NewsLook.com
Blu-Ray Discs Getting Second Run As Solar Panels

Blu-Ray Discs Getting Second Run As Solar Panels

Newsy (Nov. 26, 2014) — Researchers at Northwestern University are repurposing Blu-ray movies for better solar panel technology thanks to the discs' internal structures. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Antarctic Sea Ice Mystery Thickens... Literally

Antarctic Sea Ice Mystery Thickens... Literally

Newsy (Nov. 25, 2014) — Antarctic sea ice isn't only expanding, it's thicker than previously thought, and scientists aren't sure exactly why. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com

Search ScienceDaily

Number of stories in archives: 140,361

Find with keyword(s):
 
Enter a keyword or phrase to search ScienceDaily for related topics and research stories.

Save/Print:
Share:  

Breaking News:

Strange & Offbeat Stories

 

Plants & Animals

Earth & Climate

Fossils & Ruins

In Other News

... from NewsDaily.com

Science News

Health News

Environment News

Technology News



Save/Print:
Share:  

Free Subscriptions


Get the latest science news with ScienceDaily's free email newsletters, updated daily and weekly. Or view hourly updated newsfeeds in your RSS reader:

Get Social & Mobile


Keep up to date with the latest news from ScienceDaily via social networks and mobile apps:

Have Feedback?


Tell us what you think of ScienceDaily -- we welcome both positive and negative comments. Have any problems using the site? Questions?
Mobile iPhone Android Web
Follow Facebook Twitter Google+
Subscribe RSS Feeds Email Newsletters
Latest Headlines Health & Medicine Mind & Brain Space & Time Matter & Energy Computers & Math Plants & Animals Earth & Climate Fossils & Ruins