Water Needs and Resources

October 2, 1959

Report Outline
Prospective National Water Shorage
Existing Supplies and Future Demand
Experiments in Desalting Sea Water

Prospective National Water Shorage

A water supply problem, growing steadily more serious as the country's population and activities expand, has engaged the attention during the past dozen years of four presidential commissions, a committee of cabinet members, and a number of committees of Congress. Now, a special Senate Committee on National Water Resources is about to open two months of hearings in 17 states. The committee was created last spring to make a new and exhaustive inquiry into national water requirements and resources as a basis for legislation looking to avoidance of critical shortages in the future. Concern over water supply has led also to increases in federal appropriations for projects to develop a feasible method of taking the salt out of water from the sea or other sources of saline or brackish water.

Economic Nature of the Shortage Problem

How serious is the water supply problem? Certain localities in arid sections of the country are chronically short of water, and cities in humid areas occasionally are forced to curtail water use during dry spells to prevent depletion of reservoirs. During 1957, a year of drought which struck not only the arid West but also many areas of the East, more than 1,000 communities with one-seventh of the nation's population suffered some degree of water shortage requiring a temporary curtailment of use by local consumers.

Water shortages to date have been largely local or regional. But expert studies indicate that if existing supplies are not greatly expanded, local shortages may become so numerous within 15 or 20 years as to produce a supply crisis of national proportions. Such an eventuality would halt industrial growth in many areas and force millions of individuals to forgo for indefinite periods their customary liberal use of water for personal purposes and household purposes.

ISSUE TRACKER for Related Reports
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