The Rising Costs of Water Quality

The pressures on water supply are growing at the same time that water quality is becoming more expensive and more difficult to maintain. A recent article examines the challenges in the farm state of Nebraska.
April 17, 2014, 11am PDT | James Brasuell | @CasualBrasuell
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“The costs of managing drinking-water quality are substantial and rising. The federal Environmental Protection Agency estimated last year that the nation may need to spend upwards of $380 billion in capital costs alone to upgrade its drinking water systems,” reports Daniel Snow and Peter Calow.

The article sites the example of Nebraska (a welcome break from the daunting and persistent drought narratives of California and Texas) in exemplifying the challenges to managing water supplies: “For Nebraska, there are three main pressures on water quality that are likely to resonate across the United States, especially in farm states: the ever-increasing intensification of agriculture in response to increasing demands for food; the increasing frequency of extreme weather events as climate changes; and an aging infrastructure of drinking-water and sewage-treatment systems.”

Snow and Calow also explain the danger, and who is likely to suffer the consequences, of shoe-horning simplistic solutions to the problem: “If treatment alone is viewed as the only solution, then costs are unfairly passed on to communities not responsible for the contamination. These costs can be particularly serious for small rural communities, where the technology required to remove both uranium and nitrate could cost as much as $5 million and require substantially increased operational costs.”

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Published on Thursday, April 17, 2014 in Governing
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