Testimony on Water Efficiency: Is Water the ‘Oil” of the 21st Century?

Published: June 2003

Authors: Peter Gleick

Pages: N/A


Testimony of Dr. Peter H. Gleick
Before the Subcommittee on Water Resources and Environment
Of the Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure
United States Congress

Hearing: Water: Is it the ‘Oil’ of the 21st Century?
June 4, 2003

Mr. Chairman, Representatives: thank you for inviting me to offer comments on the importance of water for our nation and on new ways of thinking about protecting, preserving, and sustainably using that precious resource.

There are two ways to think about the title of this hearing: Is Water the Oil of the 21st Century? First, are we going to permit water to become a commodity like oil, to be overpumped, underpriced, and used wastefully, leading to water wars, international conflict and competition, and environmental destruction? Or second, can we avoid the problems that have arisen with the stupid use of oil by planning for efficient use of water, environmental protection when we extract it and use it, proper allocation, and international cooperation.

My testimony will focus on one piece of what we call “the soft path for water” – improving the efficient and wise use of this precious resource. My single most important conclusion? Water conservation and efficiency are the greatest untapped sources of water in this nation – cheaper, cleaner, and more politically acceptable than any other alternative. […]

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