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lons per capita per day. Of this, 41 percent is attributable to domestic use, 18 percent to commercial use, 24 percent to industrial use, and 17 percent to public use.?

Population growth and increased per capita consumption will push water use even higher in the future. In urban areas, more people, a higher standard of living, new household devices, and industrial developments are likely to boost per capita consumption 25 percent in the next 20 years and perhaps by as much as 60 percent by 2000. Before the end of the century, it is estimated that daily consumption for all purposes will exceed the usable supply.

These projections do not necessarily foretell a national water crisis. By itself, the prospect of demand outrunning total quantity is no cause for alarm, since an increasing amount of water is used more than once. Although some water uses, especially agricultural irrigation, severely deplete water supply, municipal and industrial water uses are not particularly consumptive.

Most of the water used in urban areas serves as a solvent, cleanser, or coolant. These uses affect quality much more than quantity. Except for the seaboard cities which secure their water from virgin sources and discharge it after use into the ocean, municipalities obtain their water from rivers or other fresh water sources which serve other urban areas both upstream or downstream. Pending such technological developments as economical desalinization, which would increase greatly the total quantity of usable water, most of the projected increase in water requirements will be met through reuse.2

These national figures and projections conceal tremendous variations in the supplies of adequate water, as well as in the costs of developing, storing, distributing, and treating it, for particular places and uses. The 30 inches of annual rainfall are not equally distributed across the Nation and available supplies are not adequate in all regions. Even proximity to abundant water sources does not guarantee an adequate supply if storage or distribution facilities are deficient or pollution is severe. Further, in urban areas throughout the country water problems tend to be more serious in the new suburbs than in the denser, older sections of the cities.

The requirements for water vary greatly in different parts of the country. There are striking differences in the uses of water in the Western States, where irrigation is the greatest need, as compared with those in the East, where industrial and municipal uses predominate. There is also considerable variation in urban water use. Some cities use as little as 100 gallons per capita daily, others as much as 250 gallons per person per day. In general, municipal per capita consumption is higher for larger, more industrial, hotter, and drier cities.3

1 U.S. Congress, Senate, Select Committee on National Water Resources, Water Resource Actirities in the United States: Future Water Requirements for Municipal Use, 86th Cong., 2d sess., 1960, Committee Print No. 7, p. 9.

* At present, it appears unlikely that research on desalinization techniques will reduce costs in the foreseeable future to the point where desalting will be economically competi. tive in most urban areas with the development of fresh water sources or the reuse of river or lake water. In some urban areas, particularly in the arid West, natural sources are saline or development and transportation costs for water are far above average. In these cases, desaliniza tion promises a feasible, although comparatively expensive, alternative to more conventional water supply methods.

U.S. Congress, Senate, Select Committee on National Water Resources, Water Resource Activities in the United States: Future Water Requirements for Municipal Use, op. cit., D. 9.

In the arid West, the key issue in urban water policy is the quantity of water available, but in the East the urban water problem is essentially one of water quality. This statement may come as a surprise to anyone within earshot of the loud complaints of water shortages that have been voiced in the Northeast for the last several years. The water shortage in this part of the country is real, but it must be qualified. As the New York Times noted editorially about the water problems of New York City, “It is ridiculous for a city located on the banks of a river that pours 11 billion gallons of water past it daily to be suffering from a water shortage.”.. The ample water supply of the Hudson River at New York is incredibly polluted. What is in short supply in the East is clean, unpolluted water, and reservoirs and distribution systems to bring it to the cities.

Water quantity and quality are closely related, particularly in the reuse of water. To be suitable for reuse, water must be of adequate quality. While urban uses have a relatively minor effect on the quantity of water, they seriously reduce water quality. Thus water supply and sewage disposal, which developed as separate functions of local government and still are administered separately in most communities, are in effect two phases of the single function of water resource management. This development stems from a number of causes, including: (1) the contiguity of many units of government in urban centers, so that one community's sewage disposal seriously affects another community's water supply; (2) the increasing reliance on the reuse of water because of expanding demand for water; and (3) the great variety of uses of water in metropolitan areas.


The major problems facing local governments stem from their failure to keep pace with the demands of a growing urban population and an increasing per capita rate of water use. This failure has many aspects. Investments have been inadequate, particularly for sewage treatment facilities. Reliance on local responsibility for the supply of water and disposal of sewage has resulted in public health hazards, inefficient development of small facilities, and a failure to achieve economies of scale in utility development. In many suburban areas, development based on individual water and sewerage systems has been a serious problem. Central city contracts with suburban dwellers and agencies for water and sewage disposal services have alleviated some problems, but have failed to extend facilities to newly developing areas.


Many communities in the United States that experience water shortages have access to adequate water supplies, but lack facilities to store and distribute enough water to meet their current or anticipated needs. A recent survey by the American Water Works Association found that in cities with a population of over 25,000, 20 percent reported deficiencies in water main capacity, 33 percent insufficient pumping capacity, 40 percent inadequate capacity, 43 percent too little elevated storage, and 29 percent lacked suflicient ground storage.

* "Cleansing the Hudson," (editorial) New York Times, Sept. 3, 1965, p. 26.

Inadequate investment is even more critical with respect to sewage treatment facilities. Estimates by various study groups and agencies give a graphic picture of the sewage treatment investment lag. In 1956, the Committee on Public Works of the U.S. House of Representatives estimated that sewage treatment works and interceptor sewers to overcome the 1955 backlog would cost in excess of $1.9 billion. The committee forecast that during 1955–1965 replacement of obsolete sewage treatment facilities would involve another $1.7 billion, and treatment works to meet population increases could be expected to require an additional investment of approximately $1.7 billion. Four years later, in a report prepared for the Senate's Select Committee on National Water Resources, the U.S. Public Health Service found the backlog needs unchanged at $1.9 billion. This study also estimated that $900 million would be required to replace obsolescent facilities and $1.8 billion to handle the wastes of population increments during the period 1958–1965. Early in 1962 the Department of Health, Education, and Welfare called for $6 billion over the next 10 years to eliminate the backlog, replace obsolete units, and serve expected population increases.?

In 1960 the backlog involved almost 20 million people living in communities which have never provided treatment for their wastes. Approximately 2,900 new sewage treatment works are needed in these communities. Another 1,100 new plants are required to serve the 3.4 million people in areas with overloaded or obsolete facilities. According to the same estimates, 1,630 additional communities, with a population of 25 million, have treatment facilities, requiring enlargement or modernizing The Conference of State Sanitary Engineers recently confirmed these findings, reporting that 5,290 communities had inadequate sewage treatment facilities. This need is largely concentrated in small communities. Over 90 percent of the deficiencies reported by the Conference of State Sanitary Engineers were in communities of less than 10,000.”

The unwillingness of local communities to increase their expenditures to provide for water and sewer utilities is the crux of the problem of inadequate investment. There is much less resistance to investing local funds in water supply. The investment lag in water storage and distribution facilities is more a product of the lack of construction during World War II and the Korean war, rising costs, material shortages, and rapid population growth than voter resistance. The story is quite different with respect to sewage treatment works, as William L. Rivers noted in the historical context of urban water and sewer development:

Much of the foot dragging by municipalities can be explained by an axiom of local politics : building a water treatment plant to clean up the water used by voting citizens is almost always easy to accomplish; however, a sewage plant


U.S. Congress, House of Representatives, Committee on Public Works, Extending and Strengthening the Water Pollution Control Act, 84th Cong., 2d sess., 1956, H, Rept. 2190,

• U.S. Congress, Senate, Select Committee on National Water Resources, Water Resource Activities in the United States: Water Quality Management, 86th Cong., 2d sess., 1960, Committee Print No. 24, p. 11.

: Wilbur J. Cohen and Jerome N. Sonosky, “Federal Water Pollution Control Act Amend. ments of 1961," Public Health Report8, LXXVII (February 1962), p. 111.

*U.S. Congress, Senate, Select Committee on National Water Resources, Water Resource Actirities: Water Quality Management, op. cit., p. 19.

U.S. Department of Health, Education, and Welfare, Public Health Service, Problems in Financing Seroage Treatment Facilities (Washington, 1962), p. 1.

p. 3.


that will treat a community's wastes benefits only the neighboring communities downstream."

The growth of water recreation has heightened public concern somewhat, but its impact is far from universal. For example, in 1961, Peter F. Mattei, executive director of the Metropolitan St. Louis Sewer District, told the Committee on Public Works of the U.S. House of Representatives that the basic problem in St. Louis was in securing the two-thirds majority needed for a general obligation bond issue or the four-sevenths majority required for a revenue bond issue. A large percentage of St. Louis' population is not bothered by the pollution of the Mississippi. No one swims in it, and boating takes place north of the city's discharge points. The only people who suffer are downstream. Under these not uncommon conditions it is a difficult proposition to sell a $100 million bond issue.11

The reluctance of local governments to provide water and sewer facilities is greatly reduced, however, when someone else foots part of the bill. Only during the 1930's, when the Federal public works programs were in effect, did water facilities and sewerage construction keep pace with demand. More recently, the handful of State assistance programs for sewage treatment works, the Federal grant program established in the Water Pollution Control Act, and the public facility loans program of the Housing and Home Finance Agency have provided a definite inducement to local investment. More effective and rigorous State, interstate agency, and Federal enforcement of pollution controls—with court action against local governments where necessary-is another factor spurring greater local investments in sewage treatment works. Finally, more inclusive metropolitan arrangements, because they offer economies of scale, provide more permanent solutions, spread construction costs over a broader base, and protect the community from having its efforts undermined by the inaction of a neighbor, have also induced more adequate investments in water and sewer utilities.


Metropolitan water and sewage services are often handled by a series of small, separate governmental units and private companies. In the Sacramento metropolitan area, water supply and distribution are the most splintered of all public functions, with 44 public and 55 private agencies operating independently. Minneapolis-St. Paul and their suburbs have 45 individual water utilities operating without an organizational or operational tie, except for the minimal controls exercised by State agencies. Fifty-six agencies supply or distribute water in Pittsburgh and Allegheny County. This fragmentation for water supply and distribution is concentrated in the suburbs, and parallels a similar pattern for sewage disposal service. In suburban Nassau County in the New York metropolitan area, there are 48 water districts and 41 districts for waste disposal and removal.

Fragmentation in the handling of the sewage function has had an adverse effect on public health in a number of metropolitan areas. Small municipalities and sewer districts often fail to process wastes at all, or treat them only inadequately. Many lack the resources to finance long outfall lines to transport their sewage and effluents to distant points for safe disposal. “As a result, water supplies and recreational areas are contaminated by raw or inadequately treated wastes. The lack of coordination also affects resource utilization across local boundaries. Depletion of the ground water reserves because of withdrawals in excess of recharge by separate agencies tapping the water table is a common problem in suburban areas dependent on individual or community well systems.

10 William L. Rivers, "The Politics of Pollution," Reporter, XIV (Mar. 30, 1961), p. 34.

11 U.S. Congress, House of Representatives, Committee on Public Works, Federal Water Pollution Control Hearings, 87th Cong., 1st sess., 1961, pp. 43, 48.

Another product of fragmentation is the variation found in service and price levels within a single metropolitan area. In Sacramento, for example, the city provides excellent water service to its residents at relatively low cost. In the suburban areas, costly private wells, less effective treatment facilities, and inadequate distribution give the suburbanite lower quality water at higher prices. In Miami, where water has been supplied by 6 municipalities and distributed by 15, the higher administrative and operating costs resulting from this dispersion of responsibility have produced up to 75 percent variation in retail rates for water from the same source. Fragmentation also increases developmental and operating costs.

Small systems rapidly become obsolete, particularly in areas where development is not complete when the initial facility is constructed.

Inadequate planning also leads to duplication of facilities. In the Seattle area, a suburban water district spent $1 million for a filtration plant to treat the polluted waters of Lake Washington. Shortly thereafter Seattle spent $1,950,000 to construct a pipeline to supply virgin water from the Cedar River in the Cascades to some suburbs adjacent to the water district. This new pipeline was large enough to meet the needs of the water district which had just invested in the treatment facility for inferior water.

Fragmentation also prevents the sharing of facilities in many areas. In the Pittsburgh area, only 13 of 33 water supply systems have connections with at least one other supplier to meet emergencies and peak hour demands. Similar problems exist in suburban northern New Jersey, where independent municipal, district, and private water systems frequently are not connected, because of the costs involved in making connections or because of cost differentials in the water itself which make interchange unattractive.


Without question, the suburbs are the critical aspect of the metropolitan water problem. The lag in investment is concentrated in the suburbs. Except for those metropolitan areas where there are a number of large cities with independent water or sewage systems, fragmentation is almost exclusively a suburban problem, since core cities usually have centralized utility systems.

Suburban water and sewage problems in most metropolitan areas are of postwar origin. Prior to World War II, suburban growth was comparatively slow and orderly. New population and industry usually were served with extensions of city water and sewerage. Reliance on these utilities kept new developments close to areas already


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