What You Need To Know About the Availability of Consumable Water in the United States

Posted on 16 May 2013 by asb

As of Aug 2012, nearly 63% of the contiguous US was experiencing drought conditions.1 At the peak, 77% of the Central Region was experiencing moderate to exceptional drought. 
About 80% of the agricultural land is experiencing drought, which makes the 2012 drought more extensive than any drought since the 1950s.2

  • According to the US Census, the population in 1950 was 152,271,417; as of November 2012, it was 314,844,109.
  • The use of chemicals, pesticides and fertilizers increased in the 1950s, ironically to counteract the diminished water supply; unfortunately, these chemicals have seeped into and contaminated groundwater.
  • In the 1950s, there were no private companies extracting groundwater, bottling it and selling it to the public.

Public access to clean consumable water is under attack!

  • As of 2005, only 14 percent of Americans still rely on wells or some other “self-supplied” water3 according to the UNEP’s illustration of global water stress, the availability of water in the United States is clearly changing.4
  • Protests and concerns about “Fracking” technology and any proposed “pipelines”  are far from unfounded; the fossil fuels derived from these endeavors is not where the greatest profits will be made. “If” the water becomes any more contaminated, the public will be dependent upon industry to clean it for consumption.

Water and wastewater operations in the US are highly fragmented, though some are advanced technologically, there are over 50,000 service providers; municipal owned and controlled supply and distribution systems is the norm but there are many private companies, which are separately regulated.5 Much of the existing wastewater infrastructure, including collection systems, treatment plants and equipment, is deteriorated and in need of repair or replacement.6

  • Nearly 73 million Americans receive water service from privately owned water utility or a municipal utility operating under a public-private partnership and 20% of all wastewater utilities in the US (about 4,200 facilities) are privately owned.7
  • With ten publicly traded water utility companies, it is a $4.3 billion per year business; owning about 16% of the nation’s community water systems and producing some 4.6 billion gallons of water a day, about 1.7 trillion gallons per year.



  1. Real-time drought dataUS Geological Survey (USGS)  

  2. U.S. Drought 2012: Farm and Food ImpactsUnited States Department of Agriculture (USDA)  

  3. The Big Thirst – Fishman C, Free Press 2012 

  4. Increased global water stressUnited Nations Environment Programme (UNEP)  

  5. Water and Waste Utilities of the World – ABS Energy Research, Ed 6 2004 

  6. Center for Sustainable Systems, University of Michigan. 2010. – US Wastewater Treatment Factsheet 

  7. http://www.nawc.org/resources/documents/pwsp-quick-facts.html 

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