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Water Use in the United States. Do We Have Enough Water?. Paul Chapin CNS High School pchapin@nscsd.org. The Procedure. In this presentation, we will be accessing and using the Science Public Policy Analyst to help use process this issue facing the United States.

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Water use in the united states

Water Use in the United States

Do We Have Enough Water?

Paul Chapin

CNS High School


The procedure
The Procedure

In this presentation, we will be accessing and using the Science Public Policy Analyst to help use process this issue facing the United States.

The Steps of the Science Public Policy Analyst (SPPA):

1. Define the Problem

2. Gather the Evidence

3. Identify the Causes

4. Evaluate an Existing Policy

5. Develop Solutions

6. Select the Best Solution (Feasibility vs. Effectiveness)


The problem
The Problem

  • We possess abundant water resources and has developed and used those resources extensively. Our future health and economic welfare is dependent upon a continuing supply of fresh uncontaminated water.

  • The problem facing the United States is that the existing sources of water are being stressed by withdrawals to meet human and environmental needs.



  • Traditional water management in the United States focused on manipulating the country's abundant supplies of freshwater to meet the needs of users. The U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) supported the supply management approach with a focus on the supply side of the water supply and demand equation for more than 100 years.

  • The era of building large dams and conveyance systems is drawing to a close; as we approach the 21st Century, the relatively limited water supply and established infrastructure must be managed more effectively to meet increasing demands.



  • "New" future supplies likely will be from conservation, recycling, reuse, and improved water-use efficiency rather than from ambitious development projects. It is apparent that the Nation no longer can try to meet insatiable water demands by continuously expanding a supply that has physical, ecological, and economic limits.



  • The transition is well under way to an era of "integrated water-resources management" that balances traditional supply-management options with progressive demand-management options.

  • The governors of the western states issued a policy statement calling for sharply enhanced efficiency in water use, and the President recently signed into law the Energy Policy Bill which calls for government agencies to take the lead in water-use-efficiency measures, and sets new standards for water-conserving plumbing fixtures.


The evidence
The Evidence

  • About 410,000 million gallons per day (Mgal/d) of water was withdrawn for use in the United States during 2005. A typical swimming pool may have 20,000 gallons of water. This is about 20 million swimming pools worth of water PER DAY!

  • About 80%of the total withdrawal was from surface water. The remaining 20% was withdrawn from groundwater.

  • Almost ½ of all the water in the US is used for thermoelectric power generation.


The evidence1
The Evidence

  • Water withdrawals in four States —California, Texas, Idaho, and Florida —accounted for more than 25% of all fresh and saline water withdrawn in the United States in 2005.

  • More than half (53 percent) of the total withdrawals in California were for irrigation, and 28 percent were for thermoelectric power.

  • Most of the withdrawals in Texas were for thermoelectric power and irrigation (29 percent).

  • Irrigation accounted for 85 percent of the water withdrawn in Idaho, and thermoelectric power accounted for 66 percent of the water withdrawn in Florida.


Identifying the causes
Identifying the Causes

  • Americans are the world's biggest water consumers. By 9 a.m., after showering, using the bathroom, brushing our teeth and having a cup of coffee, each of us typically has used more than 30 gallons of water.After doing the dishes - 12 gallons per load - running the washing machine - 43 gallons per load - and watering the lawn - 10 gallons per minute - by the time we go to bed, we've used up to 150 gallons. By comparison, people in the U.K. use a quarter of that - 40 gallons of water a day. The Chinese average just 22 gallons per day. And in the poorest countries like Kenya, people use less than the minimum 13 gallons to cover basic needs

  • Experts do agree: Demand is greater than supply. And 36 states face water shortages in this decade


Identifying the causes1
Identifying the Causes

  • Every day Arizona and parts of New Mexico use 300 million gallons more than they get in renewable supply. The extra comes from underground supplies which are not renewable.

  • Nowhere is America's water crisis more evident than Lake Mead, just outside Las Vegas. The city has 2 million thirsty people - and gets 90 percent of its drinking water from the lake. This area has grappled with a decade of drought. All last year it rained two inches, half its normal total.

  • When full, Lake Mead could cover all of Pennsylvania under a foot of water. But since 1998, the lake's capacity has plunged more than half, down 5.6 trillion gallons, enough to supply the entire United States for about six months.

  • Locals call the white band on the canyon walls the "bathtub ring." It's a mineral residue left behind by Lake Mead's sinking water. It's more than 130 feet high all around the lake. It's a reminder how deep the water problem really is.


The causes
The Causes

  • Four miles from the marina, the Hoover Dam supplies hydro-electric power to two million homes and businesses in Nevada, Arizona and California. But without enough water pressure from the lake, the massive generator units there will stop turning. As manager, Ken Rice checks the lake's level every day. There's a point below which the lake cannot go."From a power generation standpoint, our main concern would be an elevation of about 1,050," he said.The lake's elevation has plunged to 1,095 feet, just 45 feet above the point that worries Rice.


Identifying the causes2
Identifying the Causes

  • Recent drought in some areas has accentuated the need to balance water demand with available supply.

  • A research team, led by a group at Columbia University's Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory (LDEO) in Palisades, N.Y., revealed in the journal Science that southwestern North America will likely be saddled with increasingly arid conditions during the next century. This drying effect, the researchers say, is directly related to man-made climate change and will demand new methods for managing water resources in the region. They based their findings on 19 climate models.


Evaluating the existing policy
Evaluating the Existing Policy

  • Part of the reason the federal government is having so much difficulty in making and passing legislation concerning both surface water and groundwater policy is the decentralized organization of water policy.

  • The main water policy maker, the U.S. Congress, only adds to the confusion. Within Congress, there are over a dozen Congressional committees, along with numerous subcommittees, agencies and offices in the White House. All these committees have a say in each piece of legislation, often making the process more muddled.

  • Water policy, management and pollution usually tends to fall under the jurisdiction of local and state governments but with major water policy acts such as the Clean Water Act (CWA), first implemented in 1948, the federal government is taking a more active role in the protection of America's water supply.


Evaluating the existing policy1
Evaluating the Existing Policy

  • Overall, U.S. water policy has been progressing in the direction of better water management. It is not yet perfected but with the attempt to integrate eastern and western state policies, it is an improvement upon the previous policies. Water policy will continue to remain important issue in the years to come in U.S. policies.

  • Water rights and responsibilities are certainly important lessons for citizens to learn and practice. If we don't, future changes and improvements to water policy will be difficult. However, there is hope that better policies and attitudes towards water management can and will develop in the future.


Your task part 1
Your Task (part 1)

On the provided handout:

  • Summarize the problem facing the United States illustrated in this presentation.

  • Describe the evidence presented that this problem exists.

  • Identify the 3 causes referenced during this presentation of this problem.


Your task part 2
Your Task (part 2)

  • Summarize the current existing policy in the United States.

  • In small groups of 2 or 3 students:

    • Brainstorm at least 3 different solutions to the problem of water use in this country. Use the summary of the process given in the handout.

    • Select the best of your solutions (individually) and discuss your reasons for this choice. Indicate where your 3 solutions fall in the grid for determining the best solution in terms of feasibility and effectiveness.


Water use in the united states

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