My new Science Magazine article “Water Strategies for the Next Administration” has just been released (embargo lifts 11am Pacific, November 3rd; the print version will appear in the November 4th issue of Science).
It identifies six major water-related challenges facing the United States and offers explicit recommendations for strategies the next Administration and Congress should pursue, domestically and internationally. The article begins:
“Issues around fresh water are not particularly high on the U.S. political agenda. They should be. Water problems directly threaten food production, fisheries, energy generation, foreign policy, public health, and international security. Access to safe, sufficient, and affordable water is vital to well-being and to the economy. Yet U.S. water systems, once the envy of the world, are falling into disrepair and new threats loom on the horizon.”
The six key challenges addressed are:
- Inconsistent, overlapping, and inefficient Federal responsibilities for fresh water.
- Incomplete basic water science and data.
- Obsolete and decaying critical water infrastructure.
- Growing links between water conflicts and threats to US national security.
- The failure to provide safe, affordable water to all Americans.
- The worsening threat of climate change for US water resources.
The paper also offers recommendations in each of these areas and suggests that water policy offers an opportunity for bipartisan agreement. National water issues have been sadly neglected for far too long. The new Administration has many opportunities to build a 21st century national water system with broad public support. During the 2016 campaign, both presidential candidates have indicated their backing for clean water and concern over recent water-quality problems in cities like Flint, Michigan.
Among the recommendations I make in the Science Policy Forum piece are a call for a bipartisan water commission to make specific policy suggestions to Congress and the White House, an expansion of national efforts to collect, manage and share water data, modernization of federal water-quality laws, the testing for lead and other contaminants in every school in the country and remediation of any problems, new incentives for improved urban and agricultural water use technologies, an expansion of diplomatic efforts to reduce water conflicts, a boost in resources available for domestic and international programs to provide safe water and sanitation for all, and the integration of climate science into water management and planning at federal agencies and facilities.
The paper closes:
“We have neglected the nation’s fresh water far too long. The next Administration and Congress have the opportunity and responsibility to ensure federal agencies, money, and regulations work to protect our waters, citizens, communities, and national interests.”
[The author, Dr. Peter Gleick, is co-founder and president emeritus of the Pacific Institute and currently serves as chief scientist. He is a member of the U.S. National Academy of Sciences and a MacArthur Fellow.]