al. 2008). Provision of a safe and sustainable supply of water for humanity is widely expected to be one of the central issues of global politics and economics during this century. Water is also closely tied to many other leading sustainability issues such as energy, climate, and food security. Given increasing demands on freshwater supplies, particularly in the more arid regions of the western United States, the challenges of providing clean water are prominent today and will likely continue to be a concern in the future. Demands include domestic uses (potable and landscaping), agricultural uses, and support of ecosystems and biodiversity, and global change will exacerbate the tension among those demands.

The climate—water nexus presents new challenges and will require substantial investment in scientific research for managing this stressed resource in regions where water is scarce and in regions where water is plentiful. Regions experiencing water stress are projected to double by 2050 as a result of climate change (Bates et al. 2008). There is evidence that global climate change will increase the threat to human health, ecosystems, and socioeconomic conditions (IPCC 2007). As previously discussed, there will probably be direct effects on human health due to weather and climate extremes (for example, extremes in temperature and precipitation) and disasters caused by these extreme weather events (such as heat waves, floods, and hurricanes) (IOM 2009). Water is at the heart of understanding climate-change threats, and a new strategy for interdisciplinary research programs is imperative if the threat is to be handled without large adverse effects.

TABLE 2-1 Some Contrasts between the Clean Water Act and the Safe Drinking Water Act

ISSUE Clean Water Act of 1972 Safe Drinking Water Act of 1976

Goals • Swinnnable, fishable water
• Ecologic quality addressing ambient waters and discharges
• Standards developed at the state level
• “Safe” drinking water as defined by maximum contaminant levels for final drinking-water or performance standards
• Nationally consistent standards
Technology • Little advancement in routine wastewater treatment or monitoring
• Technologic advances associated with state efforts in wastewater reclamation
• New monitoring tools
• New treatment technology to address new contaminants
• Sensor technology associated with distribution systems and water security
Science • Impaired waters and development of hydrologic models
• Predictive modeling
• Source tracking methods using molecular tools
• Advancement of risk-assessment frameworks and methods
• Groundwater models
• National databases
Policies • Beaches Environmental Assessment and Coastal Health Act
• Nutrient criteria
• Contaminant Candidate List

The National Academies | 500 Fifth St. N.W. | Washington, D.C. 20001
Copyright © National Academy of Sciences. All rights reserved.
Terms of Use and Privacy Statement