The United States has adequate Precipitation but Does Not Manage It Effectivelyâ„¢

By Richard McPherson, Global Humanitarian Resources, Inc.

In response to disease outbreaks, including cholera in 1832, potable water systems were improved. It was not until the 1850s for sewers to be built.  Today over 151,000 potable water systems are maintained in the United States.  The United States Geodetic Survey (USGS) created National Water Information System collects data from about 1.5 million sites, but flooding and draughts still occur.  Over the past 186-years taxpayer funds have been spent on managing the United States water supply, but it’s still inadequate.

The conterminous (48) United States receives enough precipitation during an average year to cover the States to a depth of about 30 inches.  This is equivalent to about 1,430 cubic miles of water each year.  What happens to the water after it reaches the ground depends upon many factors such as the rate of rainfall, topography, soil condition, density of vegetation, temperature, and the extent of urbanization.
      ? Source: USGS Water Science School

The two largest watersheds, the Mississippi River Basin and Colorado River Basin should have been connected decades ago to better manage the available precipitation over most of the lower 48-states thereby minimizing damage from flooding and draughts.

In California, there was a plan developed in the 1960s to manage the available precipitation to minimize the damage from flooding and draughts, but it was abandoned.  California had the benefit of commercial nuclear power plants on its coast to create desalinization plants to eliminate droughts but has shut down all but one.  And it too is planned to be shut down.

The Columbia River Basin has so many dams the natural fish growing wetlands have been destroyed so the fish population needed for food is declining.

Almost every year floods remind us that we are not managing our water resources.  Prolonged draughts lasting years remind us we are not managing our water resources.

Why are we not managing our water resources?  It’s not a new question.  I have heard it asked many times since the 1950s.  The simple answer is changes in public policy mostly because of undue influence by minority interest groups (Joseph Beek 1942 “The California Legislature”).  Mr. Beek, Secretary of the California Senate since 1919, warned Americans in 1942. (27,889 days or 76 years, 4 months and 8 days ago).  How many meetings have been held about water, draughts and flooding have been held since his book was written?

For this meeting, after reading the “Pacific Northwest Draught Early Warning System Strategic Plan” with great interest (A plan developed from the 2006, Congress authorized National Integrated Drought Information System); I added this paragraph and one below to a paper written years ago as part of my participation in Critical Infrastructure Protection (CIP) after the 911 attack on America.

Meetings?  In my opinion, all the meetings and studies have been done.  What America lack is execution of known solutions to enjoy the God given precipitation without the continuing damage from droughts or floods decade-after-decade.  It’s a public policy issue, not a technical issue.  Americans are the most innovative and industrious people on planet earth.  They are just restrained from accomplishing great things by bad public policy.             

Richard McPherson has been involved in water and energy since 1963, when he entered the U.S. Navy nuclear propulsion program.  In 1989, he was selected (as a result of the Chernobyl accident) to represent the United States at the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) on the combined subjects of “Nuclear Fuel Cycle Facilities, the Environment and Public Opinion”.  In 2004, Richard was invited to speak at the last United Nations (UN) organizing meeting before announcing the UN “Decade of Water”.  Today, he works on solutions under the nexus of agriculture, water and energy in Idaho.  Richard has worked in over 30-countries.  Richard may be contacted by email at: