A recent U.S. Geological Survey report concludes that water usage across the country declined by 13% between 2005 and 2010. The report cites several positive trends in conservation, including those resulting from improvements in water-use technologies and management, but also identifies a trend in industrial manufacturing that we at CWC find alarming.
The report, which originated from the USGS’s regular tracking of national water usage levels, discusses the effect of a variety of factors – including demographics, new manufacturing and cooling system technologies, economic trends, legal decisions, and climatic fluctuations – on water use. One such factor, the level of industrial manufacturing occurring domestically, declined in the five years covered by the report, as a result of more goods being produced outside of the United States. Specifically, industrial water usage (or “withdrawals”) fell in the major water-using industries of wood products, primary metals, paper, and chemicals, during the period covered. While the decline is due to in part to greater efficiencies in industrial processes and an emphasis on water reuse and recycling, the report makes clear that it may also be attributed to lower domestic production in those industries. While this decline helped reduce industrial withdrawals of water, ostensibly a positive development, it is concerning that the largest consumers of water, American manufacturers, have been moving jobs overseas. This makes the jobs that water infrastructure programs provide all the more critical. Urgently needed projects – to upgrade and replace aging pipes, treatment plants and water distribution systems in rural and urban communities all over the country, for example – create jobs that put Americans to work and boost local economies.
So while we commend the USGS for the useful information the report provides to policymakers in the critical area of water usage, consumption and conservation, we think it is important to note that the decline in consumption does not in any way ameliorate the acute need for funding these projects. We at CWC are encouraged by the positive trends in consumption levels, but will not stop working aggressively for water infrastructure funding.