July 2011, Vol. 66 No. 7


AWWA launches The Future of Water

The American Water Works Association (AWWA) announced the publication of The Future of Water: A Startling Look Ahead. The authors, Steve Maxwell with Scott Yates, take a serious look at how the world will soon value water, use water and access water.

Maxwell presents likely scenarios for the broad trends that will have a significant impact upon future water challenges worldwide – population, economics, energy, climate and pollution. He discusses how the actions of individuals, investors, water utilities, industries and nations can actually change the future of water.

Topics covered in the book include:
The future of water use at home
In the future, lawns will be much smaller and may use a grass species that can live on common seawater. Clothes washers may use a cup of water per load–or no water at all. Dishwashers may use bursts of steam-infused air and ultraviolet light to clean and sanitize dishes.

The future of agricultural water use
70 percent to 80 percent of all water consumption on the planet goes into agriculture – to watering the plants and animals grown for food. The aquifers that supply all that water are gradually drying up. As it becomes scarcer, water will inevitably cost more and drive up the prices of other products. As farmers become more innovative, packaging may soon say, “Irrigated with natural rainfall, no fossil waters used.”

The future of industrial water use
As its cost increases, water will become a far more critical input or decision factor in all manufacturing and industry. Water will increasingly be considered a factor of production in the same way that labor, capital, or energy cost inputs are today. Old industrial cities in the rainy northeast U.S. that have been shrinking may experience revitalization in the future, as water-intensive industries move there.

The future sources of water
The Ocean represents an unlimited source of water for seacoast cities that can afford desalination. In the rest of the world, wastewater and stormwater reuse may become commonplace to provide “new” sources of water for drinking, energy production, agriculture, and industry.

The future of water storage
It is hard to overstate the role that dams have played in the economic development of the U.S. Now, America is building very few new dams and, in fact, is tearing down many old dams. On the other hand, China and Africa are dam building with intensity. How will the U.S. meet its water storage needs with fewer dams? What do these new Chinese and African dams – some the biggest ever built – mean for the future of water?

The future of water utilities
Treatment costs will continue to increase in response to ever-stricter water quality regulations for both water and wastewater. Water rates will rise to generate cash for more effective treatment technologies and escalating underground pipe-replacement programs. Small utilities may consolidate for cost-savings.

The future of water business
Private companies are lining up to deliver innovative, advanced solutions to the challenges of water scarcity, storage, treatment and distribution. It is impossible to define but taken as a whole, water is probably the world’s third largest industry, after oil and gas and electrical power. Most experts place the size of the commercial water market at between $500 and $600 billion per year worldwide, and still growing.

The Future of Water is available in AWWA’s online bookstore at www.awwa.org, and through Amazon and Barnes & Noble.

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