Document Type


Publication Date



The American West is justly famed for its sunshine and wide skies.1 However, there is a potent combination of low rainfall and growing population in the West that ensures that water, or the lack of it, will remain another well-known feature of the region. As the number of people sharing already stressed water supplies increases, the economic, ecological, and social costs of providing water become more evident. Agriculture consumes about 90% of the water that is extracted in the West, and the transfer from agricultural to municipal and industrial uses is invariably complex. Increased water extraction has resulted in the loss of species across the western landscape. Groundwater mining is a looming crisis in the West; however, as an issue it is hidden from public consciousness and typically solved by costly water projects. The movement toward sustainability will require a reorientation of public policies to recognize the need to balance human uses with ecological functions, and to incorporate the true costs of water into decision-making. It is important that the public learns that public entities make decisions throughout the year that affect the availability and management of water supply. Issues that should be of concern to consumers include water rates, whether rivers will be tapped for municipal supplies, achievement of water quality standards, whether new development and industry will be encouraged, as well as other issues that profoundly affect the future of western rivers.


Bulletin Series: Yale School of Forestry & Environmental Studies

Publication Title

Human Population and Freshwater Resources: U.S. Cases and International Perspectives


New Haven


Karin M. Krchnak, Victoria Dompka Markham, Nancy Thorne, Jane Coppock



First Page


Last Page



Bulletin 107 was published as a cooperative effort of the Center for Environment and Population (CEP), National Wildlife Federation (NWF), Population Resource Center (PRC), the Yale School of Forestry & Environmental Studies (Yale F&ES), and the Yale Institution for Social and Policy Studies (ISPS), with the support of the University of Michigan Population Fellows Program funded by the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID). The volume contains the proceedings of an experts’ meeting held on March 22-23, 2001, at Yale University..

Original posting:



To view the content in your browser, please download Adobe Reader or, alternately,
you may Download the file to your hard drive.

NOTE: The latest versions of Adobe Reader do not support viewing PDF files within Firefox on Mac OS and if you are using a modern (Intel) Mac, there is no official plugin for viewing PDF files within the browser window.