As the largest city in the U.S. that is not near a major body of water, Atlanta's thirst for drinking water to supply its growing population has caused a nasty conflict with its neighbors that has been brewing for the past couple of decades. While temporarily unresolved as the courts weigh in, Atlanta's water wars are a sign of things to come, notes Orszag:
"As Deane Dray and other colleagues of mine at Citigroup Inc. have written, 'There is an alarming global supply-demand imbalance, worsened by pollution and draining of underground aquifers reducing the available fresh water supply.' The massive Ogallala aquifer under the Great Plains, for example, is projected to run dry in two to three decades given recent withdrawal rates. Similarly, in the past two decades, groundwater resources in Great Lakes communities like Chicago and Milwaukee have fallen by 1,000 feet."
At the same time that the supply issue grows, a delivery problem grows along with it. "Our aging water pipes are another challenge. The U.S. has roughly 700,000 miles of these pipes, and most are more than 60 years old. Substantial investment is needed to fix or replace them," writes Orszag.
As for solutions for these challenges, Orszag proposes starting with adjusting water prices to reflected usage, and utilizing low interest rates to finance investment in new technologies and replacement pipes.