SUNDAY FEATURE: An “interstate water system” could fix the West’s water woes

We envision a major combined federal and private hallmark program for the nation — an Interstate Water System (IWS), which would rival in importance and transformative potential the Interstate Highway System. /The Interstate Highway System/ Credit: Famartin via Wikipedia and licensed under CC BY-SA 4.0

We have pipelines for oil and natural gas. Why not water?

BY JOSEPH SCHULMAN, JOHN SCHAEFER and HENRY MILLER | Big Think

We should build water pipelines, akin to the Interstate Highway System.

California’s water woes are severe and worsening. A second dry year in a row has diminished the state’s water supply, and almost three-quarters of the state is in “extreme” or “exceptional” drought, the two highest categories. With the rainy season over and a hot, dry summer ahead, water shortages and brushfires are imminent.

California is not alone. Other Western states are facing severe — and worsening — water shortages. As described by the EPA, stress on water supplies and the nation’s aging water treatment systems can lead to a variety of consequences for communities, including higher water prices, increased watering restrictions to manage shortages, seasonal loss of aquatic recreational areas when the human demand for water conflicts with environmental needs, and expensive water treatment projects when local demand overcomes available capacity.

There are both consumption and supply problems, and neither will be easy to fix. However, we have a remedy to suggest for the latter that dovetails nicely with congressional and White House initiatives to improve and expand the nation’s infrastructure.

A problem of supply and demand?

Americans use more water per capita than almost anyone else in the world — almost three times as much as the Chinese, double that of Japan, and 14 times more than the Danes. The highest domestic water use is in the driest Western U.S. states; Arizona residents use 147 gallons per day compared to just 51 gallons in Wisconsin. That will come as no surprise to anyone who has seen the heavily irrigated golf courses in places like Phoenix and Scottsdale.

America does not have a water supply problem; it has a water distribution problem.

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