(Washington, D.C.) – U.S. Senator Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH), chair of the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Subcommittee on Water and Power, today held a hearing to explore the opportunities and challenges facing domestic and global water supplies. Shaheen asked the hearing’s panel of environmental, military, public, and private officials how they believed issues such as national security, energy, health, climate change, and technological innovation will be affected by water supplies in both the United States and across the world in the years to come.
Below is Shaheen's opening statement, as submitted for the record.
Good afternoon. We are here today to explore the opportunities and challenges facing domestic and global water supplies.
This is a very broad topic, but it is one that deserves our ongoing attention. Water is critical. Yet, most of us don’t really pay attention to the water we use – where it comes from or where it goes after we finish using it. Many of us in this country take water for granted, while globally 800 million people do not have access to safe drinking water.
The figures on water use are astounding. The U.S. Geological Survey estimates that Americans use about 100 gallons of water per day. The majority of our daily water use helps generate electricity at our nation’s power plants, with over 200 billion gallons of water used in this sector alone. Globally, agricultural water use accounts for nearly 70 percent of all water withdrawals.
When we consider that the world’s population is expected to grow from 7 billion to over 10 billion people by 2050, we quickly realize that the successful management of our water resources is critical. The State Department reports that in just two decades, the world’s demand for freshwater is expected to exceed supply by 40 percent. There is increasing recognition that water scarcity raises tension between nations and may be a driver of armed conflict. Coupled with our changing climate, the future of our water supplies both here in the U.S. and around the world is cause for concern.
In my home state of New Hampshire, the fastest growing of all the New England states, we are projected to add 260,000 new people by 2030. And while we are fortunate to have an abundant water supply, we face our own challenges from increased flooding and aging infrastructure.
I would like to take a moment to welcome Harry Stewart, who I am pleased is joining us from New Hampshire’s Department of Environmental Services. He will be able to provide the unique perspective from my home state and discuss the broader set of challenges facing New England.
While we have seen great strides in technology to overcome water challenges, including desalination, we don’t yet have a silver bullet to overcome water scarcity. At the same time, there are innovative ways to reduce water consumption using existing technologies. Our Armed Forces have often been trailblazers in figuring out how to do more with less, and the Army’s Net Zero Initiative for water is an impressive example from which we all can learn.
I am pleased to welcome our witnesses today and look forward to hearing from them about the state of existing technologies, the future of technological innovation, and what else we can do as a society to ensure we have adequate supplies of water for future generations.
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