Report highlights need for innovation, efficiencies to address decline in reliable, cheap and abundant freshwater due to climate change and other impacts

Washington (April 29, 2016) – The view that drinkable water has been generally considered “reliable, cheap, and abundant” is no longer true due to a growing demand and reduction in supply, in part because of climate change impacts, including recurring drought according to a new Government Accountability Office (GAO) report. This finding and others are found in the new report, “MUNICIPAL FRESHWATER SCARCITY: Improving distribution system efficiency and tapping nontraditional water sources”, requested by Senator Edward J. Markey (D-Mass.), Rep. Raúl M. Grijalva (D-Ariz.) and Rep. Peter DeFazio (D-Ore.) when the three lawmakers served on the House Natural Resources Committee. The report finds that there is a need to consider new technologies to provide drinking water in an affordable manner. It also highlights technologies that can improve drinking water availability for municipal systems and explores current technologies, and the usage rate of each of these technologies, in the nation’s municipal water systems.
“The dual challenges of climate change and aging infrastructure demand that we explore innovative solutions to address our nation’s water infrastructure needs,” said Senator Markey, a member of the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee and former Ranking Member of the House Natural Resources Committee. “In order to ensure available freshwater for future generations we will need fresh ideas and new technology to address the decline in reliable, cheap, and abundant freshwater. Investments in our water infrastructure will reap gains for public health, job creation and local economic growth.”
“At a time when Western communities are suffering through a crippling drought, it’s unconscionable that every year we lose enough water to supply millions of people simply because we aren’t investing in new technologies to better detect leaks and tap alternative water sources,” said Rep. Grijalva, Ranking Member of the House Natural Resources Committee. “It’s long past time for Republican members of Congress to get serious about funding our nation’s deficient water infrastructure.”
“The crisis in Flint, Michigan has cast a long-overdue and much-needed spotlight on our nation’s crumbling infrastructure,” said Rep. Peter DeFazio, Ranking Member of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee. “This study shows that aging and leaking water pipe systems have an impact on not only our water’s quality, but its availability at all. Congress cannot ignore our nation’s infrastructure problems a single moment more, and must pass legislation that would increase funding for water infrastructure.”
A copy of the GAO report can be found HERE.
The GAO report also highlights the need to:

  • Improve distribution system efficiency, including reducing leaks between the water treatment plant and homes, through leak detection, pressure management, and metering technologies
  • Find more reliable water sources
  • Use water from non-traditional water sources, such as wastewater, seawater, or storm water and develop technological innovation to ensure safe water
  • Address the national and regional challenges of climate change, including drought and other changes to the hydrologic cycle that will exacerbate drinking water scarcity.
  • Examine the financial hurtle of water innovation, recognizing that the cost of adopting technologies can vary considerably, and utilities often need to hire consultants to determine which technologies are best for them.

The report also highlights that the technologies exist, but communities face regulatory and financial challenges in adopting the needed improvements to their water systems.