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fragmented governmental responsibility, lack of coordinated planning, and conflicts of interest between different groups of water users are all significant issues. Several guidelines for general improvements in government performance emerge from a consideration of water and sewage problems.

STANDARDS FOR GOVERNMENT PERFORMANCE Before examining the case of water supply, it is relevant to consider a number of "ideal” criteria for evaluating the performance of governmental functions in metropolitan areas. The Commission has proposed a number of economic, administrative, and political criteria for judging the allocation of governmental responsibility for performing urban functions. These criteria do not judge governmental performance solely from the point of view of the adequacy of public services. They are concerned not only with providing public goods and services efficiently, but also with resolving conflicting interests and assuring democratic control of government within a realistic legal and political context. The first two criteria are essentially economic:

(1) The governmental jurisdiction responsible for providing any service should be large enough for the benefits from that service to be received primarily by its own population. Neither the benefits from the service nor the social costs of failing to provide it should “spill over” into other jurisdictions. For example, the central city should not be expected to pay all of the very high capital costs of constructing a subway system which primarily benefits the suburban commuter.

The difficulties in satisfying this criterion are immediately apparent. First, spillovers of social benefits and costs, such as those resulting from health inspection or traffic control, cannot always be identified. Second, even when they can be identified, it is frequently not feasible to enlarge the jurisdiction to eliminate spillovers. Third, many functions involve subfunctions for which the amount of intercommunity spillover varies. Thus, within the total service of a parks and recreation department, play lots have a much narrower benefit area than large recreation parks. In the promotion of public health, the benefits of dwelling inspection might be more localized than those of immunization.

(2) The unit of government should be large enough to permit realization of the economies of scale. For example, it costs $58 per million gallons to provide primary sewage treatment in a milliongallon capacity facility, but less than half this amount in a 10million gallon capacity facility. Often a small community finds it uneconomical to build a refuse incineration plant because the large investment required involves a unit cost of output higher than the citizenry is willing to pay. The reduced unit cost from enlarged production would make it worthwhile to enlarge the service area by taking in more customers, at least up to the point of maximum use of the plant capacity.

Economic efficiency is only one of the criteria germane to the allocation of a particular function. Political, administrative, and social considerations must also bear heavily in such a determination. The remaining five criteria for judging the proper scale of performance are intended to reflect these considerations.


(3) The unit of government carrying on a function should have a geographic area of jurisdiction adequate for effective performance, as illustrated by the desirability of a sewage disposal system's conforming to a natural drainage basin.

Some functions by their very nature dictate the area that is adequate for effective performance. Boundaries of municipal jurisdictions often bisect watersheds and drainage basins that water supply and sewage disposal systems depend upon. Mass transit lines and highways need to cross jurisdictional boundaries at will so that bridges will not be halted in midstream and six-lane super highways will not feed into country lanes. Air pollution is no respecter of legal boundaries and its effects can be controlled only by large area action.

Some functions are intimate by nature, such as the relationship between client and welfare caseworker, or pupil and teacher. For effective immediate performance only a small area may be necessary, but adequate planning and financing may determine that a much larger area is necessary. In other words, while it is always pleasant, often desirable, and sometimes possible to preserve neighborhood and small community areas for the boundaries of governmental functions, it may be necessary to follow natural boundaries or to expand geographic coverage to insure a real adequacy to perform particular functions.

(4) The unit of government should have the legal and administrative ability to perform services assigned to it. If it is going to provide modern health protection, for example, it needs to have both adequate regulatory authority and the ability to attract and hold a trained staff capable of administering a public health program.

The government also needs an adequate financial base to perform assigned services. In many instances a municipality does not have financial resources because of the original basis of its incorporation. Incorporators who want to maintain the residential character of an area may purposely draw boundaries to exclude an industrial area and potential tax source: or a community may make tax concessionsand later regret them in order to attract a business. Older municipalities may have a decreasing financial base because of declining industry and population. Other problems are raised by tax and debt limitations placed on local governments by the State.

(5) Every unit of government should be responsible for a sufficient number of functions so that its governing processes involve a resolution of conflicting interests and a balancing of governmental needs and resources. In assigning individual functions to different governments, there is a danger of creating so many separate entities as to result in undemocratic, inequitable, and inadequate assignment of priorities. Elected officials should be responsible for setting priorities and allocating public resources for a broad variety of functions.

Different services and levels of services are considered essential by various interests and social groups. If government is to resolve conflicts of interest between the poor and the wealthy, white-collar and blue-collar families, the overpragmatic politician and the head-in-theclouds planner, it must have a sufficient range of responsibilities so that it can work out sensible and acceptable compromises.

In addition, broad scope for every government is important because services depend upon one another. Highway systems influence the demand for mass transit. The street pattern regulated by subdivision control has a bearing on the placement of waterlines and school buildings. School locations are involved with aspects of police protection, fire prevention, and public health programs. If one authority controls sewage and water, another streets, and a third transit, they may operate at cross-purposes. School boards that build schools on secondary streets without regard to overall planning of traflic patterns may defeat their own goals as well as those of the traffic engineer.

(6) The performance of public functions should remain subject to public control. This is an essential condition of responsible government and one that is often violated by creating special districts whose decisionmaking power and purse strings are not subject to direct control by the voters.

(7) Functions should be assigned to a level of government that provides opportunities for active citizen participation and still permits adequate performance. This is another standard for keeping government sensitive to the wishes of its citizens, as well as a way of attracting community talent into positions of leadership.

APPLYING THE CRITERIA An analysis of governmental functions to determine the optimum area for their administration runs into several complications. First, the major urban functions of government are not homogeneous and indivisible. Each function, whether education, libraries, or air pollution, consists of a number of subfunctions or specializations which must be examined individually. For example, police administration includes foot and car patrol, traffic regulation, and crime prevention, each of which may be performed at a different geographic and jurisdictional level.

The second complication is that each function must be viewed from at least four different time phases of administration: planning, decisionmaking, actual administration or execution, and evaluation. For example, there could be area wide planning and agreement on minimum air pollution standards for the entire metropolitan area, but each municipality might retain responsibility for financing and administering an enforcement program with discretion to enforce a higher standard at its own option. Although certain subfunctions and certain phases of the urban functions studied can be administered adequately on a local basis, almost all would benefit substantially from some form of area wide coordination, particularly in the planning phase.

A third complication stems from the already heavy involvement of State and Federal Governments. Hardly any urban service is performed purely by a local government. To varying degrees, State or Federal Governments or both are involved. Indeed, State and Federal Governments may be influential in determining which jurisdiction-local, area wide, or intermediate_shall perform a function. For this reason, the analysis of urban functions must include attention to the roles of State and National Governments.

Finally, decisions as to the most suitable jurisdiction for performing any particular function will be affected by the jurisdictional allocation of other functions. The technology, personnel, and clientele of two or more functions may be so closely related that there are real advantages in having the functions performed by the same jurisdiction, even though other considerations might suggest a different arrangement.

In applying these standards, the Commission arrived at a rough ranking of the 15 major urban functions in terms of their appropriateness for local or area wide handling for optimum performance. In an order of “most local” through “most areawide" in character, the functions were ranked as follows: fire protection, public education, refuse collection and disposal, libraries, police, health, urban renewal, housing, parks and recreation, welfare, hospitals and medical care facilities, transportation, planning, water supply and sewage disposal, and air pollution control.

The application of these or similar standards for effective administration of urban functions implies that the existing local government structure labors under handicaps. Political realities, however, preclu le shattering the existing system in order to remold it in conforinity with an ideal model. That line of action is not feasible and may not even be desirable. Many useful steps can be taken within the present governmental framework by revising arbitrary and outmoded restrictions and making bold use of such tools of intergovernmental relations as metropolitan planning, interlocal contracting, standards to control new incorporations, annexation laws, and areawide a gecies or contractural arrangements.


Measured against these standards for the performance of urban functions, the handling of water supply and sewage disposal illustrates both the complexity and the shortcomings of many governmental arrangements in urban areas. From the earliest times, governments hare been concerned with developing and regulating community water supplies. Today public agencies at all levels in the l'nited States are involved in water resource planning, policymaking, and administration. Local governments have prime responsibility for municipal water supply and waste disposal." The States activities focus on allocation, regulation, and facilitation of local activity. In addition some States recently have been giving attention to overall water resources planning and the development of water projects which are beyond the capabilities of the local units. The Federal Government has been responsible for most multipurpose river basin developments. Federal agencies also loom large in navigation, flood control, irrigation, sewage treatment assistance, pollution control and, more recently, in water use for recreational purposes.

Government at all levels, regardless of the particular role of an individual agency, is faced with the constant problem of balancing and adjusting the claims of various interests—urban, industrial, agricultural, navigation, flood control, conservation, and recreation in the allocation, regulation, and development of a scarce resource. Conflicts arise because of competing demands for different uses of water. Should water in an arid Western State be diverted from irrigation to meet mounting urban needs? Can Chicago divert Lake Michigan water for its sewage treatment requirements and possibly imperil shipping interests throughout the Great Lakes? Should New York City be permitted to tap the headwaters of the Delaware River to the possible detriment of downstream industrial users ? Other conflicts concern water allocation to similar groups

of users. Within metropolitan areas, there is competition for sources of both surface and ground water as well as for streams to carry away sewage effluents. Such competition is often centered in suburban areas whose limited resources make them heavily dependent on nearby surface or ground water supplies. Also on the increase are conflicts for water between different metropolitan areas. Thus Dallas and Fort Worth, rivals on many issues, have united to resist the efforts of Houston to tap a river considered vital to future development of the DallasFort Worth area.

Most of these conflicts are not merely the result of inadequate communications or a failure to plan. In most areas where such conflicts arise, there are not sufficient quantities of water at comparable prices and quality to supply all users. The stakes for the contestants in terms of protecting investments and insuring future development are tremendous. Competition for the use of existing supplies of water will always exist; it is not likely to be eliminated through indefinite expansion of supply or through the perfection of planning and administrative devices.

Often there is a facile assumption that if planning were intensified, the structure of decisionmaking overhauled, and intergovernmental responsibilities more carefully specified, consensus and solutions would follow with ease. Such hopes are usually unfounded. Only rarely will a plan or policy for water use appeal to all parties. To

Το the contestants in water politics, each level of government is a different arena, with varying advantages and disadvantages for different participants and the resolution of differing issues.

It is unrealistic to expect even the best governmental procedures to eliminate conflicts between different interest groups.

If governments are to provide needed services, however, they must be able to cope with conflict, mediate between different interest groups, and reach acceptable compromises as a basis for action. Governmental arrangements are deficient if they fail to consider relevant interests when decisions are made, or if they lead to inaction in the face of legitimate needs. Examples of both these situations occur with disappointing frequency in the case of water supply and sewage disposal.


The total quantity of water available in the United States is constant. For centuries, 30 inches of annual rainfall have been producing an average of 4,300 billion gallons of water per day. Approximately 14 percent of this water, about 600 billion gallons per day from both surface and ground sources, is usable.

The demands placed upon this constant supply have mounted steadily. In 1900 less than 8 percent of the 600 billion gallons per day was needed for all water uses. Today's requirements exceed 300 billion gallons per day. Less than 10 percent of this water is used in urban areas. Municipal water use averages about 147 gal

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