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Water Resources In the United States: Perspectives and Challenges


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Title: Water Resources In the United States: Perspectives and Challenges

Water Resources In the United States
Perspectives and Challenges
  • by Dr. Jerome Delli Priscoli
  • Institute for Water Resources
  • US Army Corps of Engineers
  • Editor in Chief Water Policy

Some Water Basics in the US
  • US supplies 500,000 gals per person per year
  • 19 cents /gal average
  • Municipalities 1 / 1,000 gals
  • Industry and Agriculture less then 10 cents/1000
  • Bottled water 4,000 per 1,000 gals
  • US divided in middle 100th meridian
  • Most East rain fed and Arid West irrigation
  • Two main legal Traditions of water rights
    Riparian in East and Prior Appropriation in West
  • Federal System - States have primary control of
  • Federal Interests based on Interstate Commerce,
    National Economics benefits, Environmental and
    Public Health, managing transboundary conflicts
  • Most people served by public water supplies

Water Investments
  • By early 1990s over 400 billion for capital
  • 25,000 miles of inland waterways
  • 83,000 reservoirs and dams
  • 88,000 megawatts of hydro power capacity ( to
  • 52,000 public utilities supply 24 billion gals
    per day to domestic users
  • 60 million acres of land irrigated
  • 15,000 municipal sewage treatment plants
  • 60,000 water pollution control permits
  • BUT 60 of original inland wetlands converted to
    other uses
  • BUT 50 of 1.5 million miles of streams and
    unkown amount of groundwater significantly

Water as an Industry in the US
  • No one Federal Policy collection of incremental
  • Annual expenditures is third - behind electric
    power and petro chemicals
  • Most capital intensive
  • Most highly regulated
  • 90,000 people in Federal Government
  • Parts of 10 Cabinet Departments
  • 2 major Independent Agencies
  • 34 Smaller Water Agencies
  • State and Local over 300,000 people
  • Private sector and consultants over 50,000

Federal Infrastructure Expenditures
Federal Expenditures for Water (1960-1992)
Historic Projections of Use vs. Actual Use
Water Use in the US
Water Use in the US
Increase 1950-1980 Decrease 1980-1995Why?
  • 1950-1980 expansion of irrigation and energy
  • Irrigation use of center pivot systems and
  • Inexpensive groundwater
  • Reduced demand starts in 1970s
  • Higher energy prices
  • Increased cost of irrigation water ground water,
  • improved irrigation techniques,
  • down turn in farm economy
  • Transition from water- supply to water - demand
    management and more efficient use
  • New technologies in industrial sector, more
    recycling, regulations -reduce discharge of
  • Enhanced awareness of the general public

  • 1800s Westward Expansion - Nation building
  • 1850 - 1900s - Evolution of Federal Roles
    navigation, flood control, others, areas pubic
    municipal water supply progressive era and
    conservation (wise use utilitarian Pinchot view)
  • 1920s Reaction to public roles power
  • 1930 -1940s Depression and New Deal Massive
    Public Infrastructure investments ( e.g. TVA..)
  • 1940 - 1970 Post War Struggling with
    coordination and national policy, planning,
    commissions, continued supply focus
  • NEPA Clean Water Act (Muir preservation view
    dominates )
  • demand management, pricing
  • waste treatment, reuse regulation

Recurrent Themes in US Water policy
  • Economic development
  • Regional vs. national
  • distribution of benefits
  • Coordination
  • Legislative (Congress) vs. the President
    (Executive Branch)
  • Federal, State, Local Decentralized vs.
  • Conservation and environment
  • Wise use (Utilitarian) vs. Preservationist
  • Planning vs. regulation vs. markets in allocating
  • Land vs. water

Key Water Challenge Areas Public Perceptions
  • Marine Transportation System
  • Restoring the Environment
  • Managing Watersheds Holistically
  • Floodplain and Coastal Zone Mgmt.
  • Responding to Natural Disasters

Water Challenge Areas (con.)
  • Community Water Infrastructure
  • Regulating Dredge and Fill Activities
  • Recreation
  • Project Process
  • Institutional Changes

Institutional Challenges and Changes
  • Backlog of OM and authorized projects
  • Ability for smaller communities to pay
  • Fully Fund Projects
  • Inadequate funding levels to replace aging

Background - Institutional Changes
  • Federal responsibility for water resources spread
    across 34 agencies
  • Project cost sharing prevents small and poor
    communities from getting their water needs met
  • Project completion dates have frequently been
    extended due to Federal funding caps or ceilings

Complex Aspects of Water Related Responsibilities
Federal Level -interstate commerce -public
health -standards -environment -public goods
aspects -conflicts -protection of rights
State Level -Sovereign over water
Local - Municipal Level -Zoning -Land use
Individual -Private Property Rights
Key US Federal Water Agencies
  • Agriculture
  • Economic Research
  • Soil Conservation Ser
  • Forest Service
  • FHA
  • Commerce
  • NOAA
  • National Weather Service
  • Defense
  • Corps of Engineers
  • Housing and Urban Development
  • Interior
  • B Indian Affairs
  • B Land Management
  • B Mines
  • Bureau of Reclamation
  • B Outdoor Recreation
  • Fish Wildlife
  • Geological Survey
  • National Parks Service

Key US Agencies (con.)
  • Executive Office of President
  • CEQ
  • OMB
  • OSTP
  • Energy
  • FERC
  • Bonneville Power
  • Southwest Power
  • Southeast Power
  • Alaska power
  • Western area Power
  • Congress
  • Numerous committees
  • CBO
  • CRS
  • Justice
  • Labor
  • OSHA
  • State
  • OES
  • Transportation
  • Maritime
  • Coast Guard
  • St Lawrence Seaway Dev Corp

Key US Agencies (Con.)
  • Independent Agencies
  • EPA
  • FEMA
  • ICC
  • GAO
  • TVA
  • Appalachia Reg. Comm.
  • Maritime Comm
  • Boards and Committees Commissions
  • Delaware RBC
  • Susquehana RBC
  • Mississippi River Comm
  • Pacific NW Electric Power
  • IC on Potomac
  • Bilateral Organizations
  • IJC (US - Canada)
  • IBWC (US - Mexico)
  • Federal Courts

Suggested Actions and Directions
  • Better Coordination reducing overlaps
  • Funding holistic and watershed studies at Federal
  • More River Basin Commissions and watershed
  • National Water Resources Council
  • More sensitivity to communities ability to pay
    and share costs
  • Congress move from individual
  • projects to full program
  • More multi objective approaches

Integrative River Basin/ Watershed Management
  • In the US there are
  • 2,150 Small watersheds
  • 21 Large river basins
  • Project cost sharing requirements and political
    boundaries often complicate adoption of holistic
  • Watershed studies to date have not considered all
    demands of water resources
  • d

8 Types of RBO Coordinating Mechanisms
1. Interstate Compact Commissions (Potomac) 2.
Interstate Councils 3. Basin Interagency
Committees (Ad hoc) 4. Interagency - Interstate
Commissions (Tittle II) 5. Federal - Interstate
Compact Commissions (DRBC/SRBC) 5. Federal -
Regional Agencies (TVA) 6. Single Federal
Administrator (DOI Colorado) 7. Watershed
Councils/ Process (American Heritage Rivers)
4. Interagency - Interstate Commission Tittle
II (No longer exists)
  • President
  • all water
  • agencies

National Water Resources Council WRC
Executive Dr. Staff
River Basin Commissions
  • Plans-level B
  • comprehensive
  • coordinated
  • P S

President Governors
Operating - Implementing Local and Specific
Agencies Private and Public
5. Federal Interstate Compact Commission DRBC -
Delaware SRBC - Susquehanna
State Governments
Federal US President
4 Commissioners State and Fed (Alternates)
Executive Director
Independent Staff
1. Interstate Compact Commission ICPRB Potomac
Chair Vice 18 Commissioners 4 States x 3
12 D.C. x 3 3 Federal x 3 3
Gov.s Mayor President
Cooperation Section (for 2 low flow
agreements) 3 Utilities Fairfax, WSSC, US Corps
Executive Director Independent Staff (20)
Suggested Actions
  • Analyze water resources comprehensively at a
    watershed level
  • Seek balance between social needs, economic
    development and the environment
  • Coordinate watershed planning with everyone
  • Help develop regional visions
  • Land use planning / future development based on
    watershed approach

Marine Transportation System
  • At the Listening we heard
  • Loss of benefits due to lack of funding
  • Aged marine transportation system
  • Balance environmental concerns with economic

The US Marine Transportation System
  • Moves 2.3 Billion tons
  • Commerce to Increase
  • Inland 30 by 2020
  • Seaborne 100 by 2020
  • 237 Lock Chambers
  • Most built in 1930s
  • 550,000 Hrs of Delay/Yr.
  • Moving twice the traffic they were designed for
  • Serves 78 Million Recreational Boaters

Suggested Actions
  • Transform Locks and Channels
  • Modernize Ports and Harbors
  • Protect and Restore the Environment
  • Consider Economic Environment and Social Needs
  • Public Education and Data Sharing

Restoring the Environment
From Preservation to Design
  • e heard
  • Ecosystems continue to be destroyed
  • Lack of environmental data
  • Coordination between agencies
  • Treat environmental benefits the same as economic

Restoring the Environment
  • Over 53 of wetlands have been lost as a result
    of human actions
  • About 35 of all endangered species live in or
    depend on wetlands
  • Watershed approach is required to understand
    cumulative impacts
  • Wetlands provide annual benefits of 14.8 billion

Suggested Actions
  • Watershed approach
  • Funding for assessing and monitoring
  • Environmental health
  • Testing mitigation techniques
  • Develop environmental friendly technologies
  • Educate public on env. issues
  • Collaborate with other agencies - consistency in
    environmental regulations
  • Make environment a co-equal with economic benefits

Project Process
  • Average planning time of a Corps project Is 5.6
  • 1.5 years for reconnaissance 3.4 years for
  • reexamination of study methodologies
  • achieving equity between economic development and

US Water Resources Planning Framework
  • Level A Region (many rive basins)
  • Level B River Basin
  • Level C Project/Site
  • Macroeconomics, goal setting, Integrated economic
    resource use analysis, institutions, laws.
  • Macro I-O, econometric models, water use sectors,
    priorities, system management, policy analysis
  • Microeconomics, economic efficiency, mitigation,
    design, OM, cost-sharing, role, resp.

US Impact Accounting System
  • National Economic Development (NED)
  • beneficial and adverse effects on the national
    economy in monetary terms
  • Environmental Quality (EQ)
  • effects of plans on significant environmental
    resources and ecological, cultural and esthetic
  • Regional Economic Development (RED)
  • distribution of regional economic activity from
    each plan in terms of regional income and
  • Other Social Effects (OSE)
  • effects on urban and community impacts, life,
    health, safety factors displacement, long term
    productivity energy requirements and energy

NED Categories of Goods and Services for Water
Resources Development
1. Municipal and industrial water supply 2.
Agricultural floodwater erosion sediment
reduction 3. Agricultural drainage 4.
Agricultural irrigation 5. Urban flood damage
reduction 6. Hydropower
7. Inland navigation Commercial
recreational 8. Deep draft navigation 9.
Recreation 10. Commercial fishing 11. Coastal
erosion, storm drainage reduction 12.
Environmental restoration
Suggested Actions
  • Incorporation of sustainability principles
  • Reducing time lags and delivering projects faster
  • Full stakeholder participation in Decision making
    and early participation
  • Beyond impact fixation Include consideration of
    economic and social and environmental benefits
    during project formulation
  • More consistent interpretation of NED benefits

Flood Plane and Coastal Areas Management
The Situation in the US
  • Over 150,000 square miles (94 million acres) or
    7 of country prone to floods
  • Almost 10 million households and 390 billion in
    property are at risk today
  • Rate of urban growth in flood plain twice the
    rest of country
  • Average annual loss of life from floods stable
  • Average annual flood losses rising
  • Loss of natural flood storage continues
  • But damages have increased in real dollars and
    disaster relief average 3 billion per year and
    uninsured losses are growing.

Situation (con.)
  • Unprotected development in the 100 yr. plain and
    continued development just outside the 100 yr..
  • Those deciding to live and do business in flood
    plain not paying proportionate costs of the
  • Grants and other post flood assistance reduce
    incentives to take preventative measures.
  • 20,000 communities in flood plains, 90
    participate in NFIP but less then 20 of
    occupants buy insurance.

  • Movements to coastal communities, adjacent to
    lakes and rivers
  • Reduced ability to fund large capital measures
    those other measures such as codes, regulation
  • Rebalancing from structural to local planning,
    regulations, zoning, multipurpose management
  • NFIP a primary tool of management and increased
    litigation over local government failure to
    endorse flood plain ordinances
  • New awareness on natural functions of wetlands
    and internalization of EQ values
  • Balance between public and private rights
    shifting to stronger pubic rights as pubic
    nuisances costs grow high Courts and legislatures
    evolving to reflect these concerns

Floodplain and Coastal Management
(No Transcript)
Resource Protection
Red Cross
Disaster Assistance
Flood Management in U.S.
Key Rules for NFIP
  • No residential living area below 1 flood level
  • No non-residential development subject to damage
    by 1 flood
  • No rebuilding below 1 if damage 50 or more of
    structures value
  • Moving to actuarially based premiums or adjust
    according to use of mitigation
  • Insurance industry participation in WYO program
    to bring expertise, spread coverage, improve
  • Measures must meet minimum FEMA and include
    zoning, subdivisions, building requirements,
    special purpose ordinances, outreach, education,

Community Water Infrastructure
Population Served by Types of Water Organizations
() (IHE 2000)
Community Water Infrastructure
  • Spend about 59 billion every year for clean
    water annual shortfall of 23 billion
  • Metro areas have grown from 9 to 19 of land
    area since 1960
  • 17 million people in US have sub standard
  • Public infrastructure investment declined from
    3.9 of Federal budget in 1960 to 2.6 today. Of
    this share from water declined 1 to .2
  • Almost 900 US cities have combined sanitary and
    sewer systems creating sewage overflows
  • 74,000 dams, of which 2,000 are owned by Federal
    Government. Average age is 40 years
  • Almost 1,600 significant hazard dams are within
    one mile of a downstream city

History US Investment in Water Supply
  • 18th Century shift private to public for
  • control of water to control/direct growth
  • assurance of quality
  • means to capital
  • Expenditures
  • New Deal PWA 2600 water projects 312 million
  • FERA, CWA WPA 112 million for municipal water
  • 1972-1990 more then 650 billion in Federal
    grants for sewage treatment and 20 billion
    from States
  • WEF estimates we need 23 billion/yr. for 20
    years to meet EPA standards
  • Over 100 countries without adequate sanitation
    have an annual budget less then 23 billion

  • Traditionally not a Federal public purpose but
    has become a major source of revenue for
  • 50 million people fish in US per year
  • 75 of all outdoor recreation I US is w/in 1 mile
    of streams
  • 1,800 Federal lakes host
  • 900 million visits /yr.
  • US people spend 15
  • billion/yr visiting Federal
  • sites and support 500,000jobs

Recreation (con.)
  • 25 of facilities need repair 1 billion in
    deferred maintenance
  • Old and aging built in 1960s
  • Growing conflicts between revenue stimulating
    recreation and other uses
  • Federal and public policy unclear
  • Recreation is a major
  • formulator of public
  • perceptions of water

Conclusion Personal Perspectives on Key Water
Issues in US
  • Institutional Coordination and Reorganization (7
    commission in 20th century)
  • Financing
  • Old, aging and new (eg.OM 70 of Corps budget)
  • Meeting Water Quality standards
  • Risk Perception uncertainty, floods, public
    health and quality
  • science versus perception, overcoming advocacy
  • Water and civic culture
  • Meaningful public participation
  • Active choice versus passive acceptance of risk
  • Bringing water infrastructure closer to public

Conclusions (con.)
  • From Ecological Preservation to Co-Design with
    nature (e.g. wetlands construction..)
  • Ground water protection
  • Non Point source pollution
  • Making sustainability and integrated management
    concepts operational
  • land and water use - public - private
  • intersectoral shifts - subsidiarity
  • Dealing with regional water imperatives versus
    legal jurisdictions
  • Reapportioning legally established water use to
    fit new demographic realties
  • Water Research
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