Water Issues Across the U.S.: A Grossly Unscientific Survey

When one has been immersed in an issue for a few years it is hard not to think about it everywhere one goes. And so it was that I thought about water issues everywhere I visited during my recent U.S. road trip. While the survey of issues is far short of scientific,  I do think it captures something of the diversity of water challenges facing our nation.

Raleigh, NC: As NC has developed, sediment and pathogens from stormwater have threatened drinking water supplies and shellfish beds. They have taken some action, but I’m not sure how serious. For sure, they’re not as serious about water quality as they are about highways, their highways are wonderful.

Atlanta, GA: Water shortages and really bad aging water infrastructure issues. Here was a city with severe water shortages that was losing around 40% of its drinking water due to leaky pipes. Apparently it is now taking its water issues seriously which is why it now has water and sewer bills nearly seven times those of Chicago (according to Wikipedia). I’ve heard a couple of stories about how they mustered the political will to raise rates. One was a successful campaign to be the “water mayor.” The other was that EPA threatened to arrest the rate setting board if they didn’t increase rates.

New Orleans, LA: The land underneath the redevelopment project at right stood under about eight feet of water during Hurricane Katrina. The project was in the Saint Bernard Parish which was one of the last to flood and was believed to be safe until the levees failed, catching many unfortunates by surprise. New levees are under construction to protect the redeveloped area.

Austin, TX: They have a pretty river walk. I don’t know any more than that.

Santa Fe, NM: Very little water and, based on my previous post, don’t seem to be doing a lot about it.

Golden, CO: Has first rights to the water coming out of the mountains so has loads of water even though Denver (which is downstream) is restricting lawn watering to two days a week. Coors uses this water to make watery beer.

Moab, UT: Colorado river water, while intensely fought over, is gross to drink. Smart rock climbers use a spring from the surrounding rocks to fill their water bottles.

Las Vegas, NV: Not a lot of water but intense codes in place to keep down consumption. Apparently the visible lack of water in nearby Hoover Dam has been a strong visual messenger for more serious measures.

And that’s sort of the theme of the West into CA. This theme leant credence to the oft repeated (apocryphal) quote from Mark Twain: “Whiskey is for drinking, and water is for fighting over.”

Please let me know anything I missed. Or shoot an email to chris [at] whiskeyatwater.com.

3 thoughts on “Water Issues Across the U.S.: A Grossly Unscientific Survey

  1. Thanks Chris. You are missing CA. Hope you will do that at the end of your journey, which is CA. You should right a book on this issue.


    • Good point Mo. I’m a little intimidated by CA as I’m from here but don’t feel like I know the issues all that well. There was something in the paper yesterday about how the local water district, (the Soquel Water District in central CA), is facing a shortage and going to have to reduce consumption by 15% from May through October. It has an aquifer and rainfall wasn’t sufficient here. There are also issue of groundwater intrusion due to overwithdrawal and so they’re looking into desalinization. Desal appears to be on the top of everyone’s list up and down CA, with all its water quality, energy, and cost implications.

      • Hi Chris,
        There are some nice books on CA water rught and water war between Southern CA (LA) and Northern CA. You may try to read those before leaving CA.


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