A Twenty-First Century US Water Policy

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

7
MUNICIPAL WATER USE

Heather Cooley


Introduction

The United States has a remarkably sophisticated and well-developed municipal water system that provides high-quality, reliable water supply and wastewater services to the vast majority of Americans. It was not always this way. In the mid-1800s, most big American cities lacked any kind of comprehensive water delivery infrastructure and struggled to provide safe water to the public. As urban centers were growing rapidly and the Industrial Revolution was gathering speed, thousands of people still died each year from water-related diseases such as cholera and typhoid, largely because of the contamination of drinking water and wide exposure to contaminated wastewater. In 1832, cholera reached New York from Europe and killed over 3,500 people in a city with a population of only 250,000—with today’s population, that would be equivalent to more than 100,000. In the 1840s, the disease surged back and forth across Asia, killing tens of thousands at a time, and ships once again carried the disease across the Atlantic to the New World, through the ports of New York and New Orleans. Thousands more died in New York and New Orleans and cholera traveled up the Mississippi River Valley spreading by boat to villages and towns. Ten thousand people died in St. Louis and Chicago, and the disease moved out along the Oregon Trail to the west, where it merged with more cholera brought down by fur traders from Russia through Alaska. President James Polk is reported to have contracted cholera while in New Orleans in 1849, and he died of the disease just a few months after leaving office (Rosenberg 1987; Gleick 2010).

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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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