The Value of Water to the US Economy

By Dr. Mark LeChevallier – August 22, 2014 – Comment

Every day we buy various products, sometimes with great thought, and other times without much thought at all. Something like a desk might require assembly; a child’s toy, not so much. Your morning muffin might come from a pre-packaged box or be made by the corner baker. Regardless, the products we purchase are manufactured somewhere.  

In all cases, the products we buy are only as good as the care and ingredients used in the manufacture of them. And nothing can be made or manufactured without water. That desk you had to put together was cut by machinery cooled by water. The child’s toy? Painted with water-soluable pigments and washed clean for ready play.  Whether you make or buy the muffin, water is a key ingredient, and there is a good chance you never give that fact much thought.

The iconic Hershey Bar from Chocolatetown, USA (or Hershey, PA!) or Moon Pies from Chattanooga, TN, or Oscar Meyer’s Lunchables from Davenport, IA, or Kraft Macaroni and Cheese from Champaign, IL all have something  in common with non-edible products such as Caterpillar Equipment from Peoria, IL and John Deere Tractors in Davenport, IA. Each of these businesses uses water to manufacturer their products.

Consumers don’t spend much time thinking about the water used in the production of products they buy, but the availability and quality of water is a critical cornerstone to the economic prosperity of our country.  According to a 2013 USEPA report on the Importance of Water to the US Economy ( http://water.epa.gov/action/importanceofwater/upload/Importance-of-Water-Synthesis-Report.pdf ), water is interconnected to not only the $53 billion/year public water systems, but also the $297 billion/year agricultural industry, the $.53 trillion/year manufacturing industry, the $418 billion/yr mining and energy industry, and the $197 billion/year electric industry – among just a few examples!  Without adequate and clean water, the US economy would grind to a halt. 

Benjamin Franklin famously said that “when the well is dry, we know the worth of water.”  Our economic prosperity is too important to learn this lesson only when the well runs dry – like what’s happening in Texas and California – we need our national leaders to respond now with responsible water policies to ensure that our country manages water in a way that ensure economic development for years to come.