A growing number of urban areas throughout the United States — in both dry and rainy locales — are facing pressures on their water infrastructure systems, necessitating greater investments for overhaul and a change in development patterns that are more conducive to conservation, according to a new publication released by the Washington-based Urban Land Institute (ULI). "Infrastructure 2010: An Investment Imperative" summarizes the water infrastructure issues — accessibility and availability, treatment and delivery — communities are facing, and highlights specific water issues in 14 U.S. cities.

Most Americans take their water supply for granted, leading to wasteful water use practices, according to the report. "Most water districts do not charge ratepayers full outlays for constructing and maintaining systems," the report says. "As a result, businesses and households tend to use water inefficiently and don't conserve, even though per-capita water demand could outstrip future availability in some parts of the country."

The integration of more concentrated land development into water management can reduce runoff and combat waste, the report says. For example, the runoff from eight homes on eight acres totals 149,600 cubic feet per year, while the runoff from eight homes on one acre totals 39,600 cubic feet per year. Therefore, the denser development saves both water and land, according to the report. "Changing growth patterns in response to dwindling resources will not come easy to a nation that is not accustomed to conserving water or land," said ULI Executive Vice President Maureen McAvey. "But it's clear that regional and local problems with both water quantity and quality will continue without a broad-based cutback in public water consumption and a change in how and where we build. Water infrastructure must be viewed through the lens of sustainable growth."

Infrastructure 2010 is the fourth of an annual overview series that analyzes the infrastructure needs and compares the infrastructure policies of the United States with other countries. Previous editions focused primarily on transportation systems. The cities featured in this year's report include Atlanta, Boston, Chicago, Denver, Houston, Los Angeles, Miami, Minneapolis/St. Paul, New York, Philadelphia, Phoenix, San Francisco, Seattle and Washington.

Download "Infrastructure 2010: An Investment Imperative."

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