America’s Water and Wastewater Crisis

I have a review of America’s Water and Wastewater Crisis: The Role of Private Enterprise by Lewis Solomon now up on the Liberty Law Blog. Here’s how my review begins:

Many environmental problems are exaggerated. Water scarcity is not. If anything, water supply problems are ignored. Inefficient water allocations and deteriorating urban infrastructure cannot compete with charismatic megafauna in direct-mail appeals. Yet water scarcity is a serious environmental concern. Water is essential to life, we are repeatedly told, and it is woefully mismanaged throughout much of the world. Though naturally abundant and readily reusable, fresh water is often in short supply where needed most. Access to water may be heralded as a public right, but it can be costly to provide and protect. Water is also a source of conflict, both in the U.S. and abroad. The U.S. Supreme Court hears cases concerning the allocation of water rights among states with some regularity.

Here in the United States, water supplies are routinely squandered while water infrastructure deteriorates. Governments have ensured politically potent constituencies get their water, but have been less diligent about making them pay for it. Now the bills are coming due, particularly in urbanized areas. How the nation manages its water supplies and associated infrastructure in the coming decades will impact billions of people. Indeed, water supplies could easily become the most important environmental issue of the 21st century, even if it does not (yet) merit Hollywood appeals.