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Will American cities really run out of water?

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Last month, The Huffington Post ran a piece that highlighted analysis noting 10 major U.S. cities that would have significant "imbalances of water supply and demand." 24/7 Wall Street, an online financial publication, prepared the analysis based on two recent studies and noted that water shortages will be a major challenge for urban American in the ten years.

Sustainable, safe, and reliable water service is the lifeblood of every community. But, with a headline like "The Ten Biggest American Cities That Are Running Out Of Water" and numerous media outlets picking up this analysis, many are afraid that the U.S. has a water "crisis."

The U.S. does have water challenges, but it is hard to characterize those challenges a crisis -- virtually all Americans have access to safe water and wastewater services 24 hours a day, seven days a week. While Americans will continue to have access to safe water, we must be aware of potential water scarcity and we must all understand that water is your business.

The good news is that the technologies and innovative solutions to answer our water challenges do exist, and are already being used by many water system managers working in both the private and public sectors. But these water utilities need strong political leadership and our collective support if they're to continue to provide their communities with the safe and clean water Americans have come to expect.

Partnering with the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, the National Association of Water Companies (NAWC) has launched a nationwide education effort called "Water is Your Business" - to educate community leaders, elected officials and local businesses on the importance of a sustainable water supply. We discuss regional water issues and raise awareness of the significant economical impacts of sustainable infrastructure investment including job creation.

Working with and educating local business leaders is the first step to sparking a national dialogue on the value sustainable water systems have on businesses, communities of all sizes and the economy. Many of the cities supposedly "running out" of water, like Dallas/Fort Worth, are proactively working to improve their situation as we learned when NAWC visited the Greater Irving-Las Colinas Chamber of Commerce back on Oct., 11, 2010.

And in July, down in South Florida, NAWC had the opportunity to hear Hialeah Mayor Julio Robaina speak about his joint project with Miami-Dade County in building a new $94 million water plant. "When I assembled a public, public, private partnership I decided I wanted one company to be responsible for the design-build-and-operation of the project so that one party is accountable and responsible for its success," said Mayor Robaina. "I am now confident that I can hold my partners accountable to the public interest in strict budget and ambitious timeframes." The Mayor's remarks make it clear that the state of Florida isn't taking potential water issues lightly.

Other cities like Cambridge, Mass., who have an adequate water supply, are also looking to highlight their natural assets for economic development purposes. Members of the Cambridge Chamber of Commerce (CCC) will be telling us more about these efforts on Mon., Nov. 15, when they host the third program in the "Water is Your Business" series.

There's still much to do to make the public aware of the true value of water and it is up to all of us to do our part so that our challenges do not develop into a crisis in 20 years.