Global water shortages loom, but most U.S. utilities don't have long-range supply plans.
By 2050, according to estimates from Population Action International, one-fourth of the world's population likely will live in countries blighted by chronic or recurring shortages of fresh water. But are global water shortages perceived as an imminent threat in the United States? Not at most U.S. water utilities, it appears.
In fact, few utilities in the world have long-range supply strategies, notes John Wright, program manager of the American Water Works Association's WaterWiser clearinghouse. "Without proper planning, water suppliers could face an increasingly more limited, less accessible and more expensive water resource inventory," he warns.
In the United States, water utilities take a regional approach to supply management, ignoring global or even national concerns, adds AWWA's director of regulatory affairs, Alan Roberson.
"Each city is almost their own independent utility," he explains. "So you've got 60,000 community water systems in the country, and there's some regional cooperation but there's not really a national plan or national board to look at long-range water planning."
Further, says Roberson, "sometimes it's not a question of not having enough water; it's not having it in the right place." In regions where water is scarcest, such as California, resource management is more widely practiced.