Public Health

Freshwater Supply (Global Issues) by Frank Caso

By Frank Caso

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Eastern Oregon is beginning to suffer the effects of an overdrawn aquifer. Meanwhile, the freshwater of the eastern United States suffered from the Industrial Revolution. It was the publicity surrounding the pollution of Lake Erie and the Cuyahoga River in Ohio that led the media and the public to draw attention to similar occurrences elsewhere in the country, helping to spur the environmental movement and the cleanup of rivers, lakes, bays, and harbors. In any discussion of freshwater problems in the United States, it must be borne in mind that there is a philosophical difference that translates into a major legal variation concerning water use.

This suggests a faith in the ability of the law to protect a precious resource, and an acknowledgement of the universal value of that resource. Nevertheless, like all human systems, laws, declarations, and treaties related to water can be manipulated to benefit one group over another, which is why watchdog organizations have formed. These groups publicize water inequities, law and treaty violations, and bad water policies and give voice to those who might not otherwise be heard. They may also propose new counterstrategies or comment on those already in existence to help resolve the water crisis.

Nevertheless, arguing among those states still to ratify the compact forced Congress to make the authorization of the canal and the dam provisional on ratification by six of the seven states—and six did ratify, with Arizona holding out. The compact was the first in a series of Colorado River agreements involving various states and the federal government that, collectively, became known as the Laws of the River. At Herbert Hoover’s urging, the compact divided the river’s water between the upper basin states of Wyoming, Colorado, New Mexico, and Utah and the lower basin states of California, Nevada, and Arizona.

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