(NaturalNews) In the summer of 2014, social media sites were awash with videos of people taking the "ALS ice bucket challenge." The ALS marketing stunt caught on like wildfire, prompting hundreds of thousands of social media users to pour buckets of ice water over their heads. As the organization gained attention, $12.5 million in donations over the course of a year were funneled to a staff of eleven executives sitting at the top of the ALS pyramid. As the team of executives raked in millions of wasted donation dollars, millions of gallons of water were also wasted throughout the U.S. Videos of the ice bucket challenge may one day serve as a chilling reminder of how we took fresh and available water for granted.
As all of the pointless water dumping comes to a climax in the summer of 2014, real life-and-death water shortages are occurring throughout the southwestern United States. California's water infrastructure is collapsing. In fact, scientific analysis of a U.S. Geological Survey from Cornell and the University of Arizona is raising the alarm over future "megadrought" scenarios that could last up to 35 years. The researchers purport that the southwestern United States has a 50 percent chance of undergoing a decades-long drought over the next 100 years. They said that current drought conditions in California are only "a preview of our future," and that an oncoming drought in the southwest U.S. could be the worst drought experienced in the past 2,000 years.
Potential megadrought would make the Dust Bowl of the 1930s look meager in comparison
After reviewing computer weather models, the researchers forewarned that the chance of a decade-long drought in the U.S. is as likely as the flip of a coin. "For the southwestern U.S., I'm not optimistic about avoiding real megadroughts," said Toby Ault, Cornell assistant professor of earth and atmospheric sciences and lead author of the paper.
Even worse, the researchers claimed that there is a 20 to 50 percent chance of a megadroughtoccurring that could last upwards of 35 years. A potential megadrought would make the 1930s Dust Bowl look meager in comparison. That lasted four to eight years.
Their computer models showed that the most likely places for the drought are in California, Arizona and New Mexico. Conversely, the computer model showed a decreasing chance of drought in northwestern states like Montana, Idaho and Washington. They reckoned that weather changes could prompt mass migrations of people and agricultural systems.
Further worldwide weather assessment showed that southern Africa, Australia and the Amazon basin are also vulnerable to climate shifts that could beckon megadroughts within the next century. The results of the study are to be published in the upcomingAmerican Meteorological Society's Journal of Climate.
California drought: a sign of worse to come?
According to national weather scales, California is already sitting in a D4 "exceptional drought" zone. Arizona, New Mexico, Texas and Oklahoma are sitting on the verge of drought, classified as D1 moderate drought areas. Water levels at Lake Mead, which sits on the border of Arizona and Nevada, have dropped to record lows. The reservoir, held by the Hoover Dam, has dropped 130 feet in the past 14 years of steady drought conditions.
"It's a preview of our future," said Ault. "As we add greenhouse gases into the atmosphere -- and we haven't put the brakes on stopping this -- we are weighting the dice for megadrought."
If a megadrought ever grips the southwestern U.S., constricting the livelihood of entire populations, then all the videos of wasted water and all the lack of conservation might serve as a haunting reminder, a reminder more chilling than just ice water being poured down our backs on a hot summer day.