Friday, January 25, 2013

Government should update water laws

By Adam Willman

Water is essential to life. We use it for cleaning, cooking and most importantly—drinking. So what happens when it disappears? Imagine living with government-imposed water restrictions and rations. Imagine a nation where one state has excessive water supplies while areas downstream receive only a trickle.

In July of 2010, the United Nations General Assembly recognized access to clean water for consumption and sanitation as a basic human right. It is a fantastic move by the U.N. to help ensure that member states are providing healthy and inexpensive drinking water to their citizens. Luckily, in Iowa we don’t have to worry about drinking enough water, but as droughts become more common, we may have to stop using water for recreation.

Recently, southern states on the Mississippi River asked the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to release more water from the upper Missouri River reservoirs for barge traffic. States at rivers’ headwaters want to retain control of water for irrigation, recreation and general use, leaving states downstream dry and irritated.

Water woes are growing throughout  the world. Where nations will go to war over a river, states can only ask the federal government and courts for help. As lawmakers have argued over taxes and health care, the environment and sustainability seem to have gone by the way side. We cannot ignore the facts staring us in the face. Water availability will become a problem and if there’s ever been a resource worth fighting over, it’s water.

The solution to our water troubles and other problems is easy: collaboration, cooperation and compromise. States and the federal government should implement updated water laws regulating water use and storage and set up a protocol for excess reserves or lack of water. We cannot procrastinate. If we don’t deal with it now, it will become an emergency later and that imaginary world of restricted water usage may become a reality.

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