Re: America Is Using Up Its Groundwater Like There’s No Tomorrow

Written by Olivia Nater | Published: August 29, 2023

The New York Times recently ran an interactive feature on groundwater depletion in the United States. We responded with a letter to the editor on August 29, which wasn’t published, so we are featuring it below.

We encourage all our members and supporters to make their voices heard! See our media guide for advice on how to do that.

Dear Editor,

Thank you for your important feature on U.S. groundwater depletion. The final quote by Mr. Dotson, “People are coming and coming and coming,” gives us a clue as to why well water levels have been falling since 1940 ­– the U.S. population has increased by 150% since then. Our surface water sources are not fairing any better.

The combination of continued population growth and climate change is driving a global water crisis, threatening food security and political stability. The U.S. is no exception, but the article fails to mention a third major driver of national water depletion: livestock production. The biggest share of extracted water is used to irrigate cattle-feed crops, accounting for 23% of all water consumption nationally, 55% in the Colorado River basin, and as much as 75% in a third of western sub-watersheds.

Preserving our precious water sources requires ending global population growth and ramping up climate action. Here in the U.S., we must also confront the 90 million cows in the room. Water depletion, greenhouse gas emissions, biodiversity loss and pollution are all exacerbated by our agricultural subsidies that encourage overproduction, and by our per capita consumption of meat and dairy, which is one of the highest in the world.


Olivia Nater
Communications Manager
Population Connection