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Drought, Climate Change To Force Water Use Changes

February 22, 2013

By Michael Overall

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Feb. 22-- A tsunami is rising on the horizon and people can either start planning for its impact now or wait until it`s too late, a water conservationist warned Thursday.

Not a literal tsunami, of course, but water shortages will create a crisis of epic proportions, explained Jim Martin, conservation director for the Berkley Conservation Institute.

"It`s a problem nobody wants to talk about," Martin said during a "conservation summit" on the eve of the Bassmaster Classic, which has attracted media to Tulsa from across the country this week.

"We have to start talking about it."

Climate change and population growth will force the United States to re-prioritize the use of water, Martin predicted.

More than half the continental United States is currently under drought conditions, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

And the U.S. Drought Monitor shows the entire state of Oklahoma under "severe," "extreme" or even "exceptional" drought conditions.

"We keep talking about it," Martin said, "as if the problem will go away once it starts raining."

In the short term, perhaps it will, he said. But long-term, water resources are being stretched thin.

From Atlanta to the Pacific Northwest, metropolitan areas are already straining to keep up with demand.

The immediate solution is usually to dig deeper wells. But eventually, he said, "you`ve dug as deep as you can dig."

"We`re already approaching the breaking point, where we won`t be able to tighten our belts any more and we`ll have to make real changes."

The country needs a plan to prioritize the use of water and to manage development, he said. And the sooner the discussion begins, the more influence that outdoor enthusiasts can have.

Once the crisis hits and the recreational use of water is competing against agriculture, manufacturing and urban populations, the fishing industry won`t have the votes to compete.

"A hundred million sportsmen are going to be lost in the shuffle," he said.

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(c)2013 Tulsa World, Tulsa, Okla.

Distributed by MCT Information Services

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Story image: This Oct. 4, 2012 file photo shows un-harvested corn in a field near Council Bluffs, Iowa. AP Photo/Nati Harnik, File

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