Managing the nation’s vital yet increasingly fragile supply of high-quality water might be easier with more collaboration across jurisdictions, according to Jonathan R. Pawlow, counsel for the water resources and environment subcommittee of the U.S. House Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure.

Pawlow was the Distinguished Lecturer for the eighth Ellison Chair in International Floriculture Distinguished Lecture Series at Texas A&M University.

"We need to eliminate the current adversarial approach to dealing with our nation's water quantity and quality issues," he said. "We need to establish a more holistic, integrated, sustainable planning and management approach."

But whereas the U.S. has long considered water resources to be infinite, Pawlow said, issues are emerging to cause concern. Part of those issues pertain to the supply and demand for good-quality water, and part stems from questions of who has control, be it federal versus state or public versus private.

On the supply side, Pawlow noted, water covers more than two-thirds of the Earth, but 98 percent of it is salty or brackish.

"Only about three-tenths percent of the fresh water on Earth is potentially available for human consumption," he said.

However, the U.S. has more than 1,400 billion gallons of usable water daily, about 80 percent of which is from streams and lakes, while 20 percent comes from groundwater, he said.