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Addressing Water: Obama Walks on Top

Water is the New Terrorism

It was often highlighted after the infamous tragedies of September 11th that terrorism was hardly discussed or barely even mentioned during the campaigning that led up to the 2000 election (Al vs. W). Searching for a way the horrible acts could have been avoided led to a lot of finger pointing and mudslinging on both sides (that I won’t get into again here).

I bring this up only because I see a similar looming issue (crisis in some areas of the US) that is not being given the attention that I am confident it deserves. An issue that I see us looking back on–as we did terrorism–and thinking: “How could this have been prevented?” or “Look at the campaign of ’08. The two candidates hardly mentioned water pollution and conservation issues.”

The two most notable offerings were answers to specific questions–one from Science Debate 2008 and one from DISCOVER.

When asked by DISCOVER contributor Thomas Kostigen,

Ensuring an adequate water supply is a huge issue, arguably a bigger challenge than energy. Recent estimates say we are going to have to increase our supply of freshwater by 20 percent in the next 20 years to meet world demand. Two-thirds of the world’s population will experience water shortages by 2025. Meanwhile, the Clean Water Act hasn’t been updated since 1972. What plans do you have for addressing the freshwater issue?

here is how our candidates responded:

Obama

Water quality and availability are critical issues for America and the world. An Obama administration will put water issues—both quantity and quality—at the top of our environmental agenda.
My family and I have lived near one of the world’s most precious freshwater treasures, Lake Michigan, for nearly 20 years. I understand how clean water can make a difference in people’s lives and a community’s economic health. I have seen beaches close because of pollution. As a result, I worked to understand and address the root causes of beach closings, including polluted runoff and sewage overflows that limit the time families can spend along some of our most treasured coasts.
It’s time to revitalize the Clean Water Act. I am troubled by recent court rulings that have confused rather than clarified federal jurisdiction over “waters of the United States,” including environmentally sensitive wetlands critical to maintaining supplies of clean freshwater. I will support efforts to ensure that federal protection of the nation’s waters is strengthened, not weakened. As president, I will also work to restore funding to the Clean Water State Revolving Fund (SRF) and other programs aimed at improving the quality of our nation’s lakes, rivers, and drinking water.

McCain

As a westerner, I understand the vital role that water plays in the development of western economies and in maintaining a high quality of life. Water is truly our lifeblood. I believe that we must develop, manage, and use our limited water supplies wisely and with a conservation ethic to ensure that we have sufficient supplies to meet municipal, tribal, industrial, agricultural, recreational, and environmental needs. I believe that water rights must be respected, and that disputes are better resolved not in the courts but through negotiations that build consensus. I understand the importance of state law and local prerogatives in the allocation of water resources, and that all levels of government must work together with stakeholders to ensure that our lifeblood is protected, managed, and utilized in a wise, just, and sustainable manner.
The Clean Water Act is one of our most successful environmental laws. As president I will work to develop policies that provide necessary protection of our aquatic resources, build strong and lasting partnerships, and respect local conditions and needs.

When asked in Science Debate 2008:

Thirty-nine states expect some level of water shortage over the next decade, and scientific studies suggest that a majority of our water resources are at risk. What policies would you support to meet demand for water resources?”

they had this to say:

Obama

Solutions to this critical problem will require close collaboration between federal, state, and local governments and the people and businesses affected. First, prices and policies must be set in a ways that give everyone a clear incentive to use water efficiently and avoid waste. Regulations affecting water use in appliances and incentives to shift from irrigated lawns to “water smart” landscapes are examples. Second, information, training, and, in some cases, economic assistance should be provided to farms and businesses that will need to shift to more efficient water practices. Many communities are offering kits to help businesses and homeowners audit their water use and find ways to reduce use. These should be evaluated, with the most successful programs expanded to other states and regions. I will establish a national plan to help high-growth regions with the challenges of managing their water supplies.

In addition, it is also critical that we undertake a concerted program of research, development, and testing of new technologies that can reduce water use.

McCain

As a westerner, I understand the vital role that water plays in the development of western economies and to maintaining a high quality of life. Water is truly our lifeblood. I believe that we must develop, manage, and use our limited water supplies wisely and with a conservation ethic to ensure that we have sufficient supplies to meet municipal, tribal, industrial, agricultural, recreational, and environmental needs. I believe that water rights must be respected, and that disputes are better resolved not in the courts but through negotiations that build consensus, and provide justly for the needs of the west’s diverse interests and needs. I understand the importance of state law and local prerogatives in the allocation of water resources, and that all levels of government must work together with stakeholders to ensure that our lifeblood is protected, managed, and utilized in a wise, just, and sustainable manner.

I support constructive, continuing cooperation and dialogue among the states and the water users in a manner that is fully consistent with existing compacts and agreements. This is an approach that is forward looking, and ensures cooperation in achieving implementation of water agreements among the states and the Department of the Interior and is mindful of potential technological developments that could potentially reduce water demands in certain areas.

Although none of the responses above give the reader a feeling that this is a sense of urgency for either potential administration, atleast Obama does not give a similar canned response for each question like McCain. This, along with the fact that he points out some water conservation measures and said water would be at the top of his administration’s environmental agenda, puts Obama in the lead in this critical area of concern.

His job will be to put his words into action. Your job is to take action whenever possible. These two sites will help–Sierra Club’s Water Privatization Task Force and Food and Water Watch.

And, take this freshwater quiz from the Nature Conservancy.

Related Articles

Science Debate 2008
Obama & McCain Answer DISCOVER’s Questions on the Environment
Top Ten Water Saving Tips

Image credit: Wikimedia Commons–Peripitus




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