Water Availability

The United States is blessed with abundant supplies of fresh water.

Even so, there are groups who want the United States to have a uniform water policy restricting the use of water. They have, for example, been effective in obtaining legislation requiring the use of low-flow toilets and low-flow showerheads across the country.

This has resulted in people becoming scofflaws when they remove the orifice restricting the flow of water in showerheads.

Having a one-size fits-all policy for water usage is not only bad, it’s unnecessary. The majority of our highly populated areas have a huge surplus of water.

The accompanying picture from the U.S. Geological Survey shows that east of the Mississippi River and in the Northwest, less than 10% of the water that falls as rain is consumed.

precip in USA
Precipitation in USA

Much of mid-America, including the plains states, consumes less than half the water it receives as rain.

It’s only in the Southwest where water usage exceeds supply.

The only justifiable reason for low-flow toilets and showerheads in the areas where water supply is abundant is economics – not environmental.

It costs money to build reservoirs, water treatment facilities and wastewater treatment facilities.

States should establish their own strategies and regulations for using water.

How the water is used also needs to be considered when states establish their policies. Water used for watering lawns enters the soil and isn’t returned to the reservoir, lake or river from which it was drawn – but, if there are ample supplies, why restrict the watering of lawns?

Water used for cooking and sanitary purposes is returned to the rivers after being treated.

Voters in these areas should have the right to establish whether there should be restrictions on watering lawns, or on using low-flow shower heads, etc.

There will be occasional periods of drought, such as was recently experienced in Georgia, but these periods should be dealt with as the exception, rather than the rule.

Hysterical cries for controlling water usage can be harmful to the economy. California is the best example in this regard.

California refuses to build reservoirs which could increase its supply of available water.

California is also attempting to prevent people from using water and allow much of the available water to flow to the Pacific Ocean. The San Joaquin valley has been devastated by having its water “turned off”. The lack of development of water infrastructure to make better use of water supplies is coming home to roost.

Power generation is affected by unnecessary regulations on water usage. These regulations can inhibit the building of power plants or increase the cost of generating electricity, which makes electricity more expensive for homeowners and industry.

In states where there is an abundance of water, there is no reason to restrict the use of water for power generation, since roughly 90%of the water is returned to the lakes or rivers from whence it was drawn.

In the plains states, where water usage is less than 40% of the annual supply from rainfall, there are locations where restrictions on water usage for power generation are unnecessary. For example, there is no need to impose restrictions on water usage along the Red River or the Missouri River where power plants would return 90% of the water to the river.

We should manage our water supplies intelligently, while recognizing that most of the country has an abundance of water where restricting water usage should be avoided except where it makes economic sense.

At the same time, areas where water is plentiful should recognize the importance of building reservoirs so that these areas don’t become artificially short of fresh water in the future as populations grow or a locality experiences temporary drought conditions.

The plains states could store water in reservoirs during rainy years, and draw down their water “accounts” when rainfall is low.

We need to guard against overreacting to hysterical claims about water shortages, when in fact there is no shortage in most of the country.

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