American Southwest soon will face permanent drought, says study

Tired of depressing climatic news? Too bad, here’s more! A new study in Science predicts that as early as 2021, global warming could create Dust Bowl-like conditions in the American Southwest. Much of the region has been severely dry since 2000, and researchers say 18 of the 19 computer models studied predict a permanent drought setting in before mid-century. “There are going to be some tough decisions on how to allocate water. Is it going to be the cities, or is it going to be agriculture?” says lead author Richard Seager, referring particularly to the rapidly urbanizing areas fed by the dwindling Colorado River. The Southwest currently directs 85 percent of water to irrigation. In an attempt to address shortages, the region is putting at least $2.5 billion into new water projects, and who-gets-what arguments between states are in full swing. Meanwhile, conditions in Australia may herald what’s to come: “water police” patrol the streets and slap fines on residents who hose down cars or water lawns more than twice a week.