Post your water jobs.
The U.S. has the biggest “water footprint” in the world, using nearly 656,000 gallons per capita annually, according to a new report by the Urban Land Institute and Ernst & Young.
This amount greatly outstripps far more populous China, which uses less than 186,000 gallons per capita annually.
"Infrastructure 2010: An Investment Imperative" finds that more and more urban areas throughout the United States--in both dry and rainy locales--are facing growing pressures on their water infrastructure systems, necessitating both greater investments for overhaul and a change in development patterns that are more conducive to conservation,
Citing “water profligacy as an American way of life,” the report cautions: “Most water districts do not charge ratepayers full outlays for constructing and maintaining systems…As a result, businesses and households tend to use water inefficiently and don’t conserve, even though per-capita water demand could outstrip future availability in some parts of the country…We are starting to see the limits of where people can go (to live).” The supply/demand conundrum, it notes, stretches from arid California, Colorado and Arizona to humid Georgia and Florida.
The integration of more concentrated land development into water management can reduce runoff and combat waste, states the report. One example: the runoff from eight homes on eight acres totals 149,600 cubic feet per year, while the runoff from eight homes on one acre totals 39,600 cubic feet per year, with the denser development saving both water and land.
“Changing growth patterns in response to dwindling resources will not come easy to a nation that is not accustomed to conserving water or land,” said ULI Executive Vice President Maureen McAvey. “But it’s clear that regional and local problems with both water quantity and quality will continue without a broad-based cutback in public water consumption and a change in how and where we build. Water infrastructure must be viewed through the lens of sustainable growth.”
“Over the past several years that we have been co-producing this report, perhaps the most troubling conclusion overall is that the world is moving ahead in rebuilding and expanding its infrastructure without the United States. Bottom line, the US is seriously threatening not only its quality of life now and for the future but also its very basic ability to compete economically with the rest of the world,” said Howard Roth, Global Real Estate Leader, Ernst and Young.
The report points out that according to the World Bank, 80 countries have water shortages that threaten health and economies, and 40% of the world has no access to clean water or sanitation. Water supply cannot keep pace with demand as populations increase--creating an acute problem in America and worldwide.
Infrastructure 2010 is the fourth of an annual overview series that analyzes the infrastructure needs and compares the infrastructure policies of the United States with other countries. Previous editions focused primarily on transportation systems, consistently finding that the U.S. continues to lag behind Asia and Europe in investments in transit systems, making its urban areas less competitive globally. This year, in addition to a transportation update, the report includes a look at water infrastructure--accessibility and availability, treatment and delivery---and highlights water issues in 14 U.S. cities as illustrative of the problems looming throughout much of urban America.
The cities are Atlanta, Boston, Chicago, Denver, Houston, Los Angeles, Miami, Minneapolis/St. Paul, New York City, Philadelphia, Phoenix, San Francisco, Seattle and Washington, D.C. Together they are expected to gain an additional 60 million residents between now and 2030, reinforcing the critical need to better coordinate land use planning with water availability.
Of the 14 metro areas in the report, all but three--Minneapolis/St. Paul, Philadelphia, and Atlanta--have specific conservation programs in place, indicating that many local governments are actively seeking a change in consumer behavior. However, each of the areas also faces numerous challenges including old pipes, uncertain water supply and struggles with regional cooperation. Los Angeles was the only city cited as facing all three obstacles, making its water problems particularly urgent.
Infrastructure 2010 holds up Australia as a model for water conservation, stormwater capture, and recycling, as well as more condensed land development practices, using a combination of basic and sophisticated techniques that could be applied in U.S. cities and others globally. (Residents pay $3.87 per cubic meter for water in Sydney; in Los Angeles, they pay $2.21.)
The report offers solutions to the nation’s water infrastructure problems that are similar to those recommended for transportation issues, in that the solutions aim to foster collaboration among different governmental entities, incorporate land use planning into infrastructure planning, and accept higher user costs as a necessity. Among the “fixes” specific to water:
- Use federal allocations to encourage the creation of long-range regional management programs to integrate water supply and conservation strategies with population projections, agricultural needs and utility demand.
- Face reality, in that consumers and businesses will have to pay more to ensure reliability and safe supplies.
- Give top priority to repairing and upgrading existing systems.
- Incorporate land use into water management, including restricting development in areas without ample future water resources; using only native species in landscaping; building more compactly to reduce runoff and enhance retention.
- Protect ecosystems to enable more natural storage and restoration.
- Use all available resources, including capturing rainwater, recycling wastewater, recharging groundwater, and making nonpotable water potable.
- Invest in desalinization technology.
Global Infrastructure Activity
A brief overview of infrastructure activity abroad includes:
China – China leapfrogs the rest of the world when it comes to building modern transport infrastructure, investing hundreds of billions of dollars in new roads, dams, mass transit, high-speed rail, ports and airports. The government has directed most of $600 billion in stimulus funds to large-scale infrastructure, including nearly 10,000 miles of new high-speed rail to be completed by 2020.
Japan – Japan has employed public works stimulus to boost its lackluster economy for two decades, building new roads and new airports, and expanding its “bullet” trains. Now it faces population losses and an aging population, leaving it with an overdeveloped infrastructure system offering more capacity than is warranted by demand.
South Korea – In the country’s pipeline: a 93-mile underground road network in Seoul budgeted at $9 billion, a $3 billion expansion of Incheon International Airport, $2.3 billion in green energy initiatives, and a $19 billion cleanup of major rivers, all demonstrating the country’s ongoing commitment to advancing its infrastructure systems.
Singapore – Singapore enhances is reputation for acclaimed infrastructure with the completion of the Marina Barrage, a $170 million hydroelectric dam project that integrates flood control, green technologies and recreation features.
European Union – The EU provides $630 million to member nations to spend on rail links between countries, including high-speed lines. The push to create jobs advance infrastructure plans, but the short-term increased spending is likely to be followed by a slowdown to focus on the deficits created.
United Kingdom – The UK adopts a combination of large-scale and small-scale infrastructure initiatives to reduce congestion around London. The 73-mile Crossrail tunnel will connect Heathrow Airport to the eastern suburbs; and outside the city, the Eurostar bullet train now extends to Amsterdam
France – France injected $1.21 billion in stimulus funds into its transport sector in 2009, and moves ahead with plans to double its high-speed rail system to 2,500 miles by 2020. The government also aims to be the world leader in developing infrastructure to support use of electric and hybrid electric cars
Germany – A consortium of German industrial, energy and finance companies pursues a $556 billion solar energy project to transport solar-generated electricity from state-of-the-art plants in the Sahara Desert to Germany and other European countries. It could supply as much as 15 percent of Europe’s energy needs by 2050.
The full report is available as a PDF at the link below.