Officials out West are worried about water, the New York Times reports, and not just for the short-term. In what the Times calls the "other water problem" caused by global warming, snowcaps that feed the the Colorado River—which quenches the thirst of 30 million people in seven states—are at their lowest levels in 20 years. The "most optimistic" climate models suggest that 30% to 70% will be gone the second half of this century.
The result could mean empty reservoirs, lawsuits over scarce water, and economic havoc—"an Armageddon," one official says. The fastest-growing region of the country—the Southwest—could be crippled. If drought conditions drain two key reservoirs, Lakes Powell and Mead, as some experts predict, then Arizona, California and Nevada are "wiped out," says a Nevada official. "Because you can’t replace those volumes with desalted ocean water.”