NPG Forum Paper Links Population Growth to Worsening U.S. Water Shortages

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New analysis finds America’s water resources endangered by overpopulation and climate change.

If gathered together from all over the world, the volume of lake and river freshwater would create a sphere just 35 miles in diameter.

Following a September 2nd collision of two towboats near Columbus, Kentucky – which resulted in the spill of 120,000 gallons of oil into the Mississippi River, Negative Population Growth (NPG) will release a new Forum paper today highlighting the link between population growth and deteriorating U.S. water resources. Unfortunately for pro-growth optimists, the paper begins with a warning: “Both economies and ecosystems wither without water.”

In the new publication, NPG special advisor Leon Kolankiewicz draws on three decades of professional experience as an all-around ecologist to review the dwindling supply – and diminishing quality – of our nation’s water. Filled with shocking statistics illustrating Earth’s truly limited quantities of this life-giving resource, Kolankiewicz’s essay rejects the prevalent conviction that present conservation methods will preserve our water supplies for the long-term. Titled "Dying of Thirst: Population Growth, Climate Change Aggravate Water Shortages," the new Forum paper echoes NPG’s concerns that our growing human numbers are creating a domino effect on Earth’s natural resources – which are ultimately limited.

Kolankiewicz notes: “…It seems paradoxical that humanity could ever run short of ‘the wet stuff.’ Yet both acute and chronic water shortages are ever more pronounced – and destined to become even more severe as this century progresses.” Charts, tables, and graphics throughout the new Forum paper highlight our world’s frightening reality – of all the water on our planet, only 3 percent is freshwater. Kolankiewicz explains: “Then, of the three percent… that is fresh, nearly 70 percent is frozen as ice….” More alarmingly, Kolankiewicz explains that most of the water used on a daily basis comes from freshwater lakes and rivers. If gathered together from all over the world, the volume of that lake and river freshwater would create a sphere just 35 miles in diameter.

NPG President Donald Mann praised the work, adding: “This new Forum paper echoes NPG’s long-held concerns regarding our limited water supply. In masterful detail, Kolankiewicz explains that the incredibly small supply of our world’s daily freshwater is shared by trillions of living organisms, and over 7 billion humans – nearly 322 million in the U.S. alone. And our nation’s population is growing every day – presently by an average of one person every 12 seconds.” In the Forum piece, Kolankiewicz notes: “…The crux of the matter is that… if the U.S. population were smaller (and non-growing, therefore sustainable), aggregate water use could be cut even more. We must simply commit to both population reduction and water conservation, reuse, and efficiency, allowing still more water to remain where nature intended it – in streams, rivers, and lakes.”

A frequent NPG contributing author, Kolankiewicz has long advocated prompt reduction of population to an ecologically-sustainable size through voluntary incentives. He finds that if present trends in consumption and population growth persist, we will soon run out of water – our most critical natural resource. Kolankiewicz explains: “…Efficiency, conservation, recycling, and reuse at home, in municipalities, and in irrigated agriculture can save large amounts of water and stretch existing developed supplies much further, but they cannot work miracles or accommodate infinite or rapid, sustained population growth.”

NPG President Donald Mann noted: “Unfortunately, the vast majority of Americans – both our elected officials and the general public – still have not recognized the root cause of the water and other resource depletion problems we face. At nearly 322 million people, the United States is already unsustainably overpopulated – and yet the Census Bureau projects that we will continue to grow, reaching 400 million by mid-century.” He added: “NPG hopes that the alarming reality – artfully relayed within Kolankiewicz’s perceptive work – will reach more of our nation’s citizens and elected officials. Only then can we foster broad public support for national policies which work to slow, halt, and eventually reverse U.S. population growth – until we reach a much smaller, truly sustainable level.”


Founded in 1972, NPG is a national nonprofit membership organization dedicated to educating the American public and political leaders regarding the damaging effects of population growth. We believe that our nation is already vastly overpopulated in terms of the long-range carrying capacity of its resources and environment. NPG advocates the adoption of its Proposed National Population Policy, with the goal of eventually stabilizing U.S. population at a sustainable level – far lower than today’s. We do not simply identify the problems – we propose solutions. For more information, visit our website at

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