A Twenty-First Century US Water Policy

A Twenty-First Century US Water Policy

A Twenty-First Century US Water Policy

A Twenty-First Century US Water Policy


It is zero hour for a new US water policy! At a time when many countries are adopting new national approaches to water management, the United States still has no cohesive federal policy, and water-related authorities are dispersed across more than 30 agencies. Here, at last, is a vision for what we as a nation need to do to manage our most vital resource. In this book, leading thinkers at world-class water research institution the Pacific Institute present clear and readable analysis and recommendations for a new federal water policy to confront our national and global challenges at a critical time.

What exactly is at stake? In the twenty-first century, pressures on water resources in the United States are growing and conflicts among water users are worsening. Communities continue to struggle to meet water quality standards and to ensure that safe drinking water is available for all. And new challenges are arising as climate change and extreme events worsen, new water quality threats materialize, and financial constraints grow. Yet the United States has not stepped up with adequate leadership to address these problems.

The inability of national policymakers to safeguard our water makes the United States increasingly vulnerable to serious disruptions of something most of us take for granted: affordable, reliable, and safe water. This book provides an independent assessment of water issues and water management in the United States, addressing emerging and persistent water challenges from the perspectives of science, public policy, environmental justice, economics, and law. With fascinating case studies and first-person accounts of what helps and hinders good water management, this is a clear-eyed look at what we need for a twenty-first century water policy.


Exceptional drought in Texas. Massive flooding in the Northern Plains. Crumbling infrastructure across the country. Pharmaceutical residues in drinking water. Depletion of the agriculturally critical Ogallala Aquifer. Invasive species in the Great Lakes. Intersex fish turning up in the Corn Belt. Coastal erosion and sea level rise along the Gulf Coast, not to mention in Norfolk, Virginia. What in the world is going on? And what are we going to do about it?

Welcome to the real world of water in the 21st century. Among the natural resource challenges facing the country, perhaps none is more important than ensuring adequate supplies of clean water for all the many needs and purposes people have. Clean water is not just a requisite for health, as important as that is, but essential for a prosperous economy, for growing food, for recreation, and for maintaining productive, functioning ecosystems—the forests, lakes and rivers, wildlife, and other resources on which all human activity depends.

Water has long been a special interest of mine throughout a career in environmental affairs. While serving as administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency in the administration of President George H. W. Bush, I put a priority on expanding programs to restore important bodies of water. I had seen firsthand how people across the country would mobilize to protect special places in their own communities, the lands and waters they had come to treasure. After my work with the EPA, convinced that water would be a flashpoint in many places around the globe, I started a private equity investment fund dedicated to improving the way water and sanitation are provided in the developing . . .

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