Water-supply References for Reporters

January 15, 2012

Sidebar to "Checking Local Water Use and Scrutinizing Those Big Water Projects Can Benefit Your Community," Reporter's Toolbox, SEJournal Winter 2011-2012 issue.

“Estimated Use of Water in the United States”: This U.S. Geological Survey report published every five years is the best source of national water use by industry, by state, by water-source, per capita and myriad other ways of analyzing water use. This is where you can find out how much water your agricultural sector and power plants drink. Find it here: http://pubs.usgs.gov/circ/1344/.

The most recent report is 2005. 2010 numbers won’t be available until 2014. One of the most important stories to look for in the data is the dramatic decline in per-capita water use over time. The conventional wisdom has been that communities need more and more water if they are to grow; don’t accept it.

For water-use data in your own state: The USGS has a hydrologist/water use expert in each state who compiles data and is the point of contact for journalists who’d like to request it. To get a picture of water use by industry, per-capita use and other details about your state, click on http://water.usgs.gov/watuse/wupersonnel.html and find the email for your USGS contact.

“The World’s Water”: Published by Island Press, this biennial report has key global and national water-use data and expert insights into water-use issues of the day, such as desalination or bottled water. The 2011-2012 edition (Volume 7), has sections on the effects of fossil fuel production on water resources and the state of the Colorado River. If the topic you’re covering isn’t in the latest edition, check the index for past ones at www.worldwater.org.

The reports are edited by Peter Gleick of the Pacific Institute, another excellent source for water-supply stories, the volumes are available at most major libraries. To chat with Gleick, a perennial favorite on the freshwater panel at SEJ’s annual conference, email him at pgleick@gmail.com.

The National Drought Mitigation Center at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln is the leading source for the picture of drought, drought impacts, drought predictions, and drought preparedness — all broken down by region, if you like. The NDMC also keeps tabs on how well — or not — states are prepared for drought; check with them for a possible story on your state’s plans or lack thereof. Click on http://drought.unl.edu/, then under “News & Outreach,” find helpful links to the best policy or science sources at the center.

NOAA-University of Colorado Western Water Assessment is a good source for national stories and journalists west of the 100th Meridian for trends and predictions in western water availability, the impacts of climate change on freshwater and adaption and mitigation strategies. Principal investigator Brad Udall, another of our freshwater panelists in Miami, has spent a lot of time in Australia and can talk about adapting to what may become permanent drought. Email him at bradley.udall@colorado.edu.