The Future of U.S. Water Supplies

This was the topic for an interesting 4-person panel in Washington, D.C. on October 2nd sponsored by Resources for the Future (RFF). Here’s the link to the seminar. It’s well worth a close look. Ironically, RFF’s current president is Phil Sharp, the former 20-year Indiana Congressman.

Notably, Dr. Tom Brown of the U.S. Forest Service concluded his remarks (at 33:46 minutes into the video) by the statement that “Adaptation will be essential, but large increases in reservoir storage capacity are typically not the answer.”

At 29:50, he discusses future water demand, i.e. desired consumptive use, as the climate changes. (Note that per the map for scenario A2-CSIRO (w/ the climate change model included), there could be an onerous increase in water demand in the Midwest area including Indiana, i.e. greater than 100%, due mainly to increased demand for agricultural and landscape irrigation.

It will be interesting to observe how, or whether, Citizens Water, with its apparent natural aversion to serious water conservation, will evaluate potential responses to such sobering future scenarios related to water demand increases caused by climate change. Previous public comments at its Technical Advisory Group meetings have urged CW to begin to instill a broad-based water conservation ethic to reduce demand. But that would constitute “Reducing baseline water use” which, as RFF researcher Len Shabman noted (starting at 64:23 into the video), urban water utilities are highly averse to consider.

However, it’s clear that Citizens Water is certainly not averse to “Water system consolidation” (another utility taboo noted by Shabman’s interesting table “Hierarchy of Practicability”). Citizens Water has been on an acquisition binge across central Indiana. (The purchase of the Westfield, IN system is currently pending before the Indiana Utility Regulatory Commission). Citizens Water will soon control most of the water utilities in central Indiana and will be instrumental in setting water policy for the region.

We hope that CW’s management is as circumspect and forward-thinking as it professes to be and will develop aggressive conservation plans for the future in the region. We’re skeptical— Citizens’ recent 20 -page Sustainability Report 2013 barely even mentions conservation.

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