America's Renewable Resources: Historical Trends and Current Challenges

By Kenneth D. Frederick; Roger A. Sedjo | Go to book overview

Adapting to Changing Supply and Demand

The United States continues to enjoy relatively abundant water resources. Control over these resources grew enormously over the past century. However, the water demands to support a $5-trillion economy and nearly one-quarter of a billion people, most of whom expect virtually unlimited quantities of high-quality water to be available at a nominal price, have grown even more. Although the nation has achieved considerable success (albeit at a high cost) in cleaning up its waters, protecting and restoring water quality will be a continuing challenge. In particular, reducing nonpoint source pollutants and protecting drinking water supplies from toxic substances are problems currently lacking effective solutions. An effective strategy for meeting water-quality objectives will need to target the resources designated for achieving these ends to the areas where they will produce the greatest net benefits.

The costs of using water will rise in the future; only the nature of the costs is in doubt. When water is underpriced for uses such as irrigation and waste disposal, more of society's costs take the form of deteriorating aquatic ecosystems, loss of instream values, restrictions on development resulting from the inability to secure adequate water supplies, and perhaps more frequent interruptions in service. On the other hand, when the costs are borne by users who have incentives to conserve and opportunities to sell water rights, then the resource is used more efficiently, the highest-value uses are assured of an adequate supply, and the nation derives greater net benefits from its resources. By facilitating and reducing the costs of adapting to changing supply and demand conditions, this approach also would provide a renewed realization that there is plenty of water to meet everyone's demands.


Notes

The author is indebted to John Fedkiw for providing numerous source materials as well as insightful and detailed comments on several drafts of this chapter, and to Emery Castle, Larry Mac- Donnell, David Moody, Paul Portney, Kyle Schilling, John Schefter, Norm Starler, Clive Walker, Richard Wahl, and three anonymous reviewers for their constructive comments.

1.
The 1945 and 1970 water use data are from different sources that, based on their estimates for 1950 and 1955, are not completely consistent. Nevertheless, because the differences among the sources are not major, the two sources do appear to provide a good indication of changes in use from 1945 to 1970.
2.
Then as now, however, when water rights or land with appurtenant water rights were sold, the water was no longer viewed as free. If the rights to water were clearly defined and transferable, there were costs associated with using water for one purpose if that water could be put to alternative uses.
3.
For a more extensive discussion of the potential hydrologic implications of a greenhouse warming, see Frederick and Gleick ( 1989).

-71-

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America's Renewable Resources: Historical Trends and Current Challenges
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Esources for the Future v
  • Contents vii
  • Tables x
  • Figures xi
  • Preface xiii
  • 1: Overview: Renewable Resource Trends 1
  • References 21
  • 2: Water Resources: Increasing Demand and Scarce Supplies 23
  • Notes 71
  • Appendix 2 72
  • References 75
  • 3: Forest Resources: Resilient and Serviceable 81
  • Notes 115
  • Appendix 116
  • References 118
  • 4: Rangeland Resources: Changing Uses and Productivity 123
  • Notes 161
  • Appendix 4 162
  • References 163
  • 5: Cropland and Soils: Past Performance and Policy Challenges 169
  • References 203
  • 6: Wildlife: Severe Decline and Partial Recovery 205
  • Notes 241
  • Appendix 6 242
  • References 245
  • 7: The Growing Role of Outdoor Recreation 249
  • Notes 279
  • Appendix 280
  • References 281
  • About the Authors 283
  • Photo Credits 284
  • Index 285
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