Government plays a central role in water policy, costs, allocation, delivery and quality. Whether those in charge choose to abdicate their responsibility to a private water company or not, government is the ultimate arbiter between public and commercial interests of all types. It is through government that we either succeed or fail in preserving our country’s water resources into the future.
The U.S. currently possesses no national water policy. Rather, our water policy is a hodgepodge of state, local, and federal responsibility/authority. This is the result of state versus federal jurisdiction; initial perceived abundant water supplies in the East as opposed to relative scarcity in the West; the emergence of water quality and habitat preservation embodied in a battery of federal laws; federal (i.e. taxpayer) infrastructure investment; and federal (national) rights on tribal and public lands, primarily in the West. Indeed, in terms of water allocation assigned to state responsibility, a water law analyst describes the situation as “50 different water policies.”43
Outside of elected government and government agencies of various ilks, the court system is yet another purveyor of water law as growing regional conflicts emerge mainly due to increasing scarcity issues and local water quality degradation.
Finally, the United Nations, over a period of time and with eventual acknowledgment of the United States, has emphasized government responsibility in delivering safe, clean water with the adoption of a series of resolutions with respect to the human right to water and sanitation. We mention this because this international principle was applied to the U.S. in the economically depressed City of Detroit (by the UN, not the U.S. government) when the city government began disconnecting service to low-income individuals on a grand scale.
This report surveys the role of government with respect to the following:
– Access to water resources
– Allocation of water resources – Water quality
– Water infrastructure
– Private water utility operations