A Twenty-First Century US Water Policy

By Juliet Christian-Smith; Peter H. Gleick et al. | Go to book overview

providing funding for basic research on issues of national interest, intervening in legal disputes among the states, participating in international water policy and diplomacy, managing water on federal lands, and helping to ensure that states and municipalities are able to meet future water challenges. These objectives are not being adequately addressed by the federal agencies responsible for them. In some cases, agencies have overlapping and conflicting authorities. In other instances, the executive branch has failed to request sufficient funds to protect and manage our water resources, or the legislative branch has failed to appropriate and allocate those funds. And water policies have not been updated to account for advances in our scientific and technical understanding of both water problems and solutions.

It is time for a new 21st century United States water policy.

The need for national water policies and reappraisal of current strategies and approaches to water management is not new. Over 60 years ago, President Truman signed Executive Order 10095 to establish The President’s Water Commission with the following charge:

The President’s Water Resources Policy Commission shall study, and make recommen-
dations to the President with respect to, Federal responsibility for and participation in
the development, utilization, and conservation of water resources, including related
land uses and other public purposes to the extent that they are directly concerned with
water resources. The Commission shall give consideration in particular to (a) the ex-
tent and character of Federal Government participation in major water-resources pro-
grams, (b) an appraisal of the priority of water-resources programs from the standpoint
of economic and social need, (c) criteria and standards for evaluating the feasibility of
water-resources projects, and (d) desirable legislation or changes in existing legislation
relating to the development, utilization, and conservation of water resources.

That Executive Order led to “A Water Policy for the American People,” published in 1950.

Over four decades ago, Congress acknowledged the need for a more rational, comprehensive approach to water resource planning and management, passing the National Water Commission Act (P. L. 90-515) on September 26, 1968. The act called for the creation of a National Water Commission to:

review present and anticipated national water resource problems, making such
projections of water requirements as may be necessary and identifying alternative
ways of meeting these requirements—giving consideration, among other things, to
conservation and more efficient use of existing supplies, increased usability by re-
duction of pollution, innovations to encourage the highest economic use of water,
inter-basin transfers, and technological advances …

The commission’s work culminated in a nearly 600-page report to Congress in 1973, concluding, among other things, that the federal government should improve collaboration among different agencies, collect and distribute more comprehensive water data, and

-xvi-

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A Twenty-First Century US Water Policy
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Contents v
  • Foreword vii
  • Acknowledgments xi
  • List of Abbreviations xiii
  • Introduction- the Soft Path for Water xv
  • 1 - The Water of the United States 3
  • 2 - Legal and Institutional Framework of Water Management 23
  • 3 - Water and Environmental Justice 52
  • 4 - Tribes and Water 90
  • 5 - Water Quality 109
  • 6 - Protecting Freshwater Ecosystems 142
  • 7 - Municipal Water Use 167
  • 8 - Water and Agriculture 195
  • 9 - Water and Energy 221
  • 10 - Water and Climate 244
  • 11 - United States International Water Policy 263
  • 12 - Conclusions and Recommendations 288
  • Appendix - Key Pieces of Federal Legislation 305
  • Notes 313
  • About the Authors 317
  • Index 319
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