Environment: The U.S.: No Water to Waste

For all its natural wealth, the U.S. has its share of water woes. Nearly half of its rivers, lakes and streams are damaged or threatened by pollution, according to an Environmental Protection Agency survey. Occasional water shortages have struck all over the country, even in the rain-rich Northeast.

By far the most serious problems are in the West, where poor water- management practices, rampant growth and extreme drought have hurt both people and vital ecosystems. In cities and towns, water scarcity means quick showers, brown lawns and dirty cars. But the real economic burden falls on farmers, who use between 80%...