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Committee Discusses Water Supply Challenges

May 14, 2008
Press Release

(Washington, DC) – Today, House Science and Technology Committee held a hearing to discuss the challenge of managing water supplies to meet social, economic and environmental needs in the United States.  Population growth, changes in water use patterns, competing demands for water supply, degradation of water quality, and climatic variation are all factors influencing the availability and use of water. 

“Recent droughts experienced in the west and the southeast and increased competition for water supplies suggest that we must take a closer look at how we are managing our water resources,” said Chairman Bart Gordon (D-TN).   

Over 50,000 water utilities withdraw approximately 40 billion gallons per day of water from surface and groundwater sources to supply water for domestic consumption, industry, and other uses.  When severe water shortages occur, the economic impacts can be substantial.  According to a 2000 report from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, eight water shortages from drought or heat waves each resulted in $1 billion or more in monetary losses over the past 20 years.

An adequate supply of treated water is integral to many industries, including agriculture and food processing, power generation, manufacturing, and mineral extraction.  Water shortages can negatively affect companies and entire industries and reduce job creation and retention.  Current industry trajectories, population growth, and dwindling water supplies all point to increased water shortages.  Increased water demand will come with increased costs to all businesses, industries, and municipalities which rely on the same water resources.

Congressman Matheson said: “Drought, population growth and climate change continue to put stress on the nation's existing water supplies, lending urgency to a national goal of water conservation.  My legislation, HR 3957 to establish a research, development and demonstration program within the EPA's Office of Research and Development (ORD) will help us to move new water conserving technologies forward and promote greater awareness of the need to conserve this vital resource.” 

"Nationally, 36 states are anticipating local, regional or statewide water shortages by 2013.  Americans now use an average of 100 gallons of water per person every day.  If we don't soon come up with innovative technology to use water more efficiently the well--so to speak--is going to run dry," said Matheson.

“I believe with investment in research and development, public education and better information on the status of our water supplies we can avoid the high costs, social disruption, and environmental damage associated with water shortages,” said Gordon

Witnesses for the hearing included:

  • Dr. Robert Wilkinson, Director, Water Policy Program, Bren School of Environmental Science and Management, University of California-Santa Barbara;
  • Dr. Stephen Parker, Director, Water Science and Technology Board, National Research Council;
  • Dr. Jonathan Overpeck, Director, Institute for the Study of Planet Earth, and Professor, Geosciences and Atmospheric Sciences, University of Arizona;
  • Mr. Marc Levinson, Economist, US Corporate Research, JPMorgan Chase; and
  • Dr. Roger Pulwarty, Director for the U.S. National Integrated Drought Information System (NIDIS) and Physical Scientist in the NOAA Office of Oceanic and Atmospheric Research Climate Program Office.

For more information on this hearing including witness testimony, visit the Committee’s website.

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110.257

110th Congress