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water resources sufficient compensation? Should we focus on research and development or provision of facilities to assist in future adaptation to changes in the location, form, and quality of water resources? Or, as I have suggested in a different context, should we consider trust funds for future generations?

Throughout history the human species has been both clever and very lucky in using its natural resources. As resources have become scarce and the prices have risen, uses have become more efficient or substitutes have been discovered or invented that could serve the same function—often better or more economically than the previous resource. Fresh water, however, is different. Our actions now have long-term effects on the quality of fresh water and the access that people will have to fresh water. Technology will help some people in the future, for example, by providing affordable, large-scale desalination plants for marine water, but there are no substitutes for fresh water. If we are not careful today, we can leave our children a huge bill for cleaning up rivers and lakes that we have polluted. We can leave our great-grand-children a nearly irreversible legacy of eroded watersheds, polluted ground water, and contaminated lake and rivers bottoms. Water is vital. Simple fairness demands that we conserve it for future generations and that we find ways to consider the interests of future generations in the decisions that we make today.



Approaching the topic from the perspective of climate change would raise a number of additional issues. A definition of intergenerational equity in terms of changing climate might be a rate of climate change sufficiently slow to permit adaptation without excessive costs. This would require knowing the rate at which the physical system and the natural system can adapt. Rates of social adaptation will differ depending on the location, the economic and social conditions, and the country's technological capacity. We understand very little about social rates of adaptation. Even if we understood them better, it would be necessary to select some country's adaptation rate as the norm. Should it be the rate of those least able to adapt or should it be a more moderate rate with assistance provided to those who adapt more slowly?


Federal Water Pollution Act, as amended by the Clean Water Act of 1977, 33 U.S.C.A. Sec. 1321(b)(5).

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