WASHINGTON – The United States does not have a major water problem – it has several major water problems.
That was the realization of Jeffery Lape, the deputy director of science and technology at the Environmental Protection Agency, after meeting with officials from several states over the past year. California is in the midst of an historic drought. Rivers in the Pacific Northwest have become hotter, harming salmon populations. Cities around the country are facing the same problems as Flint, Mich.: contaminated water and deteriorating distribution systems.
So Lape gathered groups from across the country March 22 for the White House Water Summit. The meeting was held in the Eisenhower Executive Office Building next to the White House.
BROOKS COUNTY — For the first time, an aid group is deploying water stations in the Brooks County brush in an effort to prevent migrant deaths, and finding creative ways to work with private ranchers who don’t usually fling the gates wide for outsiders. It’s a fledgling movement — only two stations are in place so far — but the rising interest from human rights groups is another indicator of the mounting death toll. It is also a sign of Brooks County’s emergence as a kind of new Sonoran Desert, where water stations have long been a fixture in southern Arizona. As migration patterns and U.S. border enforcement strategies have changed, the migrant trail has shifted, too, leading them on foot through the county’s barren, 944 square miles of private ranches to avoid the Border Patrol checkpoint south of Falfurrias. Nearly 80 bodies have been recovered in the county in 2013, approaching the record 129 in 2012.
EL PASO — Time to clear the water about El Paso’s water supply. The worst blizzard to hit the Southwest in recent memory raised many questions about sufficient water supplies in El Paso and its surrounding towns. Thousands of homes and businesses in the area suffered burst water pipes that caused floods and forced businesses and schools to close for several days. But as residents recover from the damage, they still are asking if El Paso is running out of water. “We estimated about 15,000 to 20,000 homes had leaks.