Water Shortages

June 18, 2010 • Volume 20, Issue 23
Is the United States facing a crisis?
By Jennifer Weeks


Watermarks on sandstone cliffs beside Lake Powell (AFP/Getty Images/David McNew)
Watermarks on sandstone cliffs beside Lake Powell, near Page, Ariz., show how water levels have dropped on the reservoir, formed by the Glen Canyon Dam on the Colorado River. (AFP/Getty Images/David McNew)

Clean water is a critical resource not only for drinking but also for agriculture, energy production and high-tech manufacturing. But severe drought — once seen as an issue only for the arid West — has become a fact of life in many parts of the United States. Meanwhile, many cities depend on water mains and sewer pipes more than 100 years old. Environmental laws have sharply cut water pollution and improved drinking-water quality since the 1970s. But experts say the nation needs to spend more than $250 billion in the next several years to modernize water treatment systems, and current investments are falling short. The Environmental Protection Agency has proposed new ways to regulate water pollutants, and economists say charging more for water would promote conservation. But whether Americans will pay more for a resource that many view as a basic human right remains to be seen.

ISSUE TRACKER for Related Reports
Water Pollution
Jul. 15, 2016  Drinking Water Safety
Oct. 17, 2014  Protecting the Oceans
Jun. 18, 2010  Water Shortages
Aug. 01, 2003  Water Shortages
Nov. 24, 2000  Water Quality
Dec. 15, 1995  Global Water Shortages
Feb. 11, 1994  Water Quality
Apr. 19, 1991  California: Enough Water for the Future?
Jan. 30, 1987  Western Water
Jul. 12, 1985  Preventing Groundwater Contamination
Jan. 14, 1977  Western Water: Coming Crisis
Feb. 15, 1974  Drinking Water Safety
Aug. 11, 1965  Water Resources and National Water Needs
Dec. 08, 1960  Pollution of Water Supplies
Oct. 02, 1959  Water Needs and Resources
Jul. 01, 1955  Water for the Future
Jul. 24, 1953  Water Pollution
Feb. 15, 1950  Water Supply
Oct. 03, 1947  Unclean Waters
Sep. 17, 1935  Stream Pollution and the Disposal of Waste
Water Resources