Few of us think regularly about water. It seems limitless because it falls from the sky year after year. We turn on the tap and fresh, pure water comes out.
Most of us have never known it to be otherwise. But problems that water specialists saw on the horizon many decades ago are now with us. Water shortages are a well-known problem not only in desert areas such as Tucson, Phoenix, Las Vegas, and Albuquerque but also in moister places like New York City. As America's population continues to grow at its current rate of 3 million each year, water shortages will creep into other large cities as well. Adding to the water problems caused by increasing numbers is the increasing concentration of our population in cities. The nation's population is increasing about 1 percent per year and the growth of cities is much faster. About three-quarters of all Americans now live in large cities. That is where most jobs and growth opportunities are.
Perhaps even more frightening than the looming shortage of water is the amount of impure water we are drinking. Despite marked improvement since passage of the Clean Water Act 35 years ago, the United Nations estimates that 5.6 million Americans (2 percent of us) drink water that does not meet safety standards. Chemical contaminants are present in all our major streams and in 90 percent of our underground aquifers. Twenty-four percent of Americans refuse to drink tap water. Sixty-five percent take such precautions as treating water in their homes by filtering or boiling it.
More than half of us drink bottled water despite a 1997 UN study that showed bottled water was in no way superior to New York City tap water. Read More