Saturday, January 28, 2012

A Future That Needs A National Plan

The Winter 2011 issue of The Bridge has a special issue on sustainable water resources.  One particular article, A Plea for a Coordinated National Water Policy by Gerald E. Galloway Jr., should be read by all water resource planners and engineers.

Provided below is a list of our national water challenges outlined in The Bridge:
  • In 2002, 49% of the US was experiencing moderate to severe drought.  Since then, drought has become commonplace in many more places across the country - - Texas and the Southwest are prime examples.  Like many parts of the Southwest, Texas faces a future of population growth and limited water supplies.
  • The 1970s goal of providing fishable, swimmable, and drinkable water throughout the nation have never been realized.  We have yet been able to deal with the problem of nonpoint-source pollution.
  • Over the last five decades, average annual flood damage has increased in spite of significant federal investment in structural and non-structural programs to reduce flood risk and lessen the impact of flooding when it occurs.
  • Much of the U.S. inland waterway infrastructure is outdated and appreciably slows barge traffic.  In addition, many ports, harbors, and channels are not competitive in today's deep-draft shipping environment.
  • Riverine and coastal ecosystems remain at risk as floodplains and wetlands are subject to increasing pressure by developers or are disappearing as a result of anthropogenic activities that have undermined their stability.
  • Human activities over the last century have severely damaged ecosystems in many places in the United States, including the Everglades, coastal Louisiana, the Chesapeake Bay, the upper Mississippi and Missouri Rivers, and the California Bay Delta.
  • Lack of understanding of the water-energy nexus (this is a huge problem in my opinion).  Water needs energy and energy needs water.  We unfortunately continue to treat these as two separate systems.
  • Groundwater provides 18% of the nation's urban water supply, yet we are a long way from understanding and protecting this valuable water resource.
  • We don't do watershed planning.  Projects and resources are not identified and deployed on a watershed or basin level.
  • Texas and Oklahoma are slowly marching toward prolonged litigation around interstate water rights.  Management of interstate waters is problematic - - decisions are frequently made by judges and courts without any knowledge or background in water resources planning.
  • The ASCE grade tells us a lot - - a D or D- in the water infrastructure sections.  Funding is short to the tune of nine zeros.
  • The United States has not undertaken a comprehensive water assessment since 1976.  We have a complete lack of knowledge regarding the current conditions.

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