Economist in Steamboat: Funding water projects will be challenging
August 15, 2012
Steamboat Springs — An overall demand for water will continue to rise, but securing the funding to increase water supplies will be difficult, a respected economist said Wednesday.
"The real issue here with water is, 'What are we going to do about it?’" Carl Steidtmann said. "The problem is our government entities are deeply in debt."
Steidtmann, a Steamboat Springs resident who is chief economist for Deloitte, was the lunchtime speaker during the 2012 Summer Water and Energy Conference at the Sheraton Steamboat Resort on Wednesday. The three-day conference goes through Friday and is put on by the Colorado Water Congress. There are 240 people registered for the conference, and attendees include local politicians, state legislators and representatives from water conservancy districts, water departments and municipalities across the state.
Steidtmann's keynote Wednesday was titled "The Regional Impact of the National Economy: Letting Go of the Status Quo for Water and Energy."
Among the state's water experts at the talk were representatives from energy companies.
"They're very intertwined," Mike Gibson, president of the Colorado Water Congress, said about energy interests and water interests. "As we all know, one cannot exist without the other."
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Steidtmann, who consults with Fortune 500 companies, said water is becoming an increasingly important issue for energy companies because of its increasing scarcity. To illustrate this point, he showed a map forecasting water availability in 2025.
"The western part of the U.S. becomes one of those areas of critical water shortages," Steidtmann said.
In an era of a contracting government where more money is being spent to pay off debt, Steidtmann said infrastructure projects are the ones that are easy to delay.
"The money available for infrastructure projects, especially for water, is going to be very challenging," he said.
More positive news comes from the energy sector, which Steidtmann said is undergoing the most dramatic transformation since the 1850s. Domestic oil production is increasing along with renewable energy, and a natural gas boom is creating a place for capital investment and more opportunities for blue-collar jobs.
"We will see energy prices come down," Steidtmann said.
Looking at the economic forecast for the country, Steidtmann said there are some things to worry about, specifically the economy in Europe, which is retracting and burdened by banking, debt and trade problems.
But there also are reasons for optimism.
The country is experiencing what he called the fourth wave of technology, composed of high-speed wireless networking, cloud computing and social networking, which will be used by businesses to create jobs and increase productivity. The technology also will help fuel what he sees as a transformation in education.
Steidtmann also pointed to the slow recovery of the housing market as a reason for optimism.
"Every strong recovery in post-World War II … has been led by housing," Steidtmann said.
To reach Matt Stensland, call 970-871-4247 or email mstensland@SteamboatToday.com