The Singapore Public Utilities Board (PUB) is known globally as a leading water utility. Because of the nation’s precarious geographic and political situation, PUB has led the way in developing alternative sources of water, such as reuse and desalination. The agency has undertaken and supported significant R&D work for water technology, which serves the dual purposes of meeting its own long-term water supply goals and helping new products reach international markets.
Although PUB has led in reuse and desalination, it plans to expand its capacity further to meet projected water demands of population growth and industry through 2060. Existing and planned future water supplies are shown below. Note the relatively small proportion of “traditional” local water supplies, compared to reuse and desalination, and that future water supplies will be derived 100 percent from alternative supplies.
This raises the question: what agency in the United States might assume such a leadership role here? There have been several “water technology hubs” on a smaller scale, such as the Milwaukee Water Council and Houston Water Innovation Hub, and agencies such as Orange County Water District in California have adopted new technologies. But will a large agency commit to investment in water supply and treatment technologies on a larger scale for a longer term? Will such a program be implemented by the City of Los Angeles through its One Water LA program? Or will another agency step forward, such as the Metropolitan Water District of Southern California, City of Houston or New York City?
In recent decades, US cities, districts and states have been reluctant to invest in new water supplies based on the perception of cost and environmental impacts, even when those concerns have been shown to be chimeric. Moving forward, however, certain areas must act, if they are to maintain safe, reliable water supplies. For example, California cities and agriculture will need to make substantial investments based on regulatory changes that will reduce the quantity of surface and groundwater available in future, as will Texas industry in order to make water available for economic development along the Gulf Coast. But who will have the courage to step up and make real investments?
The U.S. Government Accountability Office released a report today finding that two social media campaigns operated by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency violated federal laws against publicity, propaganda and grassroots lobbying by the agency. The violations occurred as part of USEPA’s efforts to adopt the Clean Water Rule defining the scope of “waters of the United States” under the federal Clean Water Act.
For a more detailed analysis of the report, you can see my article contained in the December 2015 issue of Global Water Intelligence, which will be published later this week.
I had the privilege yesterday evening to hear a conversation with Sen. Alan Simpson and Erskine Bowles, co-chairs of the National Commission on Fiscal Responsibility and Reform and authors of the Commission’s report The Moment of Truth (2010). It was a great chance to hear genuine statesmen discussing one of the most pressing issues of our day. Logically, the first question posed by the moderator was “how did we get here?” Mr. Bowles discussed the five main causes of our national debt crisis—health care, the tax code, defense spending, social security and compounded interest. Sen. Simpson had a very short answer: we got here because US citizens over the past decades have elected representatives to Congress to bring home the bacon. He listed a few of the things that we have asked the federal government to pay for, and number one on the list was dams.
As we come to the final week before the 2012 US presidential election, this post reviews the political platforms of both the Democratic and Republican parties related to water resources.
On February 10, the US National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) published new maps showing drought conditions across the southeastern US. States that are experiencing particular drought include Texas, Louisiana, Arkansas, Georgia and Florida. In all of these states except Arkansas, drought is expected to persist or worsen over the spring of 2011 and possibly beyond.Combined with the drought and possible effects of climate change are demographic and regulatory challenges facing water supplies, including population growth in the Texaplex cities (Houston, Dallas, Fort Worth, Austin and San Antonio) and litigation in federal court that is limiting access by metropolitan Atlanta to Lake Lanier.
These challenges collectively mean that the southeastern states, which only recently emerged from a multi-year drought, will need to continue developing their physical, institutional and legal infrastructure for water supplies. There is likely to be appropriate emphasis on water use efficiency, recycling, desalination, conjunctive use and interbasin transfers. Texas, Georgia and Florida are likely to be the most active. Texas has the clearest path, while both Georgia and Florida are tied up in interstate stream litigation with Alabama. Water resource managers and strategic advisors certainly are living in interesting times.