California drought pits farmers vs. cities. But neither is the biggest water victim in the Midwest, which has one-third of the nation’s water, and more than half of its rivers.
Wastewater flows through the streets of downtown St. Louis. (Photo : David Grisman)
“Cities, along with agriculture and industry, are at the epicenter of the water woes in the Midwest and the U.S.” — according to a 2016 study called, “Water Quality Challenges in the Midwest—An Analysis of the Impacts of Agriculture, Industry, and Urban Water Use.”
“The cities of St. Louis and Chicago consume more water per capita than any other city in the nation. The St. Louis area is home to the nation’s largest concentrations of cities and towns of any metropolitan area in the nation, and there is now an initiative to have St. Louis designated as a ‘water smart’ urban region,” said the Water Quality Challenges report.
St. Louis has the nation’s fourth most contaminated water drinking supply with 24 percent of its drinking water contaminated with high levels of phosphorus.
St. Louis produces more than 12 percent of the nation’s phosphorus pollution.
And while the total amount of freshwater is not in question, the study estimates there is a lack of coordination among the water consumers leading to a failure to conserve when needed.
The study also found that the water quality has been on the decline since the 1950s.
“The state of water in the Midwest is in crisis. There is no water,” Mark McAfee, director of the Illinois Center for Environmental Advocacy (ICEA), told the News-Leader. ICEA is a statewide water group with more than 700 members.
McAfee said a lot could be done to address the water crisis in the Midwest by using what is known as a water right approach.
“The water right approach would involve the state of Illinois and the federal government in having a public agency that looks at where the water is not getting to, at how it is being used, by whom, and at the right time,” McAfee said. “Right now, as we’re moving towards