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Summary of Hearings on Water Resources (8-18-03)

  • March 6, 2003: Senate Water and Power Subcommittee Hearing on a hydrogeologic characterization, mapping, modeling, and monitoring for the High Plains Aquifer (S. 212).
  • March 27, 2003: House Resources Subcommittee on Water and Power Hearing on Water Supply and Reliability: The Role of Water Recycling.
  • April 1, 2003: House Resources Subcommittee on Water and Power Hearing on H.R. 135.
  • May 7, 2003: House Transportation and Infrastructure Subcommittee on Water Resources and Environment Hearing on H.R. 135.
  • May 22, 2003: House Transportation and Infrastructure Subcommittee on Water Resources and Environment Hearing on Water: Is it the "Oil" of the 21st Century? (Part I)
  • June 4, 2003: House Transportation and Infrastructure Subcommittee on Water Resources and Environment Hearing on Water: Is it the "Oil" of the 21st Century? (Part II)
  • July 24, 2003: House Resources Subcommittee on Water and Power Hearing on H.R. 2641 and H.R. 2828 to authorize the Secretary of the Interior to implement CALFED Bay-Delta Program

U.S. House Resources Subcommittee on Water and Power Hearing on H.R. 2641 adn H.R. 2828 to authorize the Secretary of the Interior to implement CALFED Bay-Delta Program
July 24, 2003

Witnesses
Panel I
The Honorable Dianne Feinstein, U.S. Senator, State of California

Panel II - Title I of H.R. 2828 (Desalination, Water Recycling and Other Water Technologies)
Eugene E. Habiger, President and CEO, San Antonio Water System, Texas
Irela Bague, Governing Board of the South Florida Water Management District, Florida
Eduardo A. Campirano, Assistant General Manager and COO, Brownsville Public Utilities Board, Texas
Robert Neufeld, President, Cucamonga County Water District, California

Panel III - Title II of H.R.2828 and H.R. 2641 (CALFED Implementation)
Gloria Morales, Businesswoman/Farmer
Brent Walthall, Kern County Water Agency
Edward Osann, Consultant, Natural Resources Defense Council
Stuart Somach, Attorney, Somach, Simmons & Dunn
Greg Zlotnick, Director, Santa Clara Valley Water District Board of Directors

On July 24, 2003, the House Resources Subcommittee on Water and Power held a hearing to examine water supply technologies and the implementation of CALFED, the joint initiative between California and the federal government to manage and regulate the waters of the San Francisco Bay/Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta Estuary. Chairman Ken Calvert (R-CA) opened the hearing by describing how the bill he is sponsoring (H.R. 2828) addresses the growing water supply needs of California and the rest of the nation through "a national performance-based, competitive financing program" initiated "to help communities implement water desalination, water recycling, and brackish/impaired water treatment projects for reducing water supply vulnerabilities." According to Calvert, the Federal Reauthorization of CALFED will also play a key role in developing new water yield and storage capacities.

Senator Dianne Feinstein's (D-CA) testimony explained how California's population growth and agricultural capacity have created significant water resource problems and CALFED is the best way to address these problems. Feinstein touted the version of the CALFED implementation bill (S. 1097) which she sponsers as the most balanced approach that stays faithful to the Record of Decision (ROD), the 2000 "roadmap" for CALFED which grew out of the 1994 Bay-Delta Accords. According to Feinstein, the bill would ensure balanced implementation by requiring that the Secretary of the Interior annually certify that different project goals are being executed "in a balanced manner."

The second panel's testimony was generally supportive of Title I of H.R. 2828, which would establish a competitive grant program in support of advanced desalinization and water reuse technologies. Panelists from several states described their ongoing efforts to meet water supply needs through recycling, desalinization, ground water and surface water storage, wastewater reclamation, and conservation. When questioned, they suggested that the most helpful federal measures would be stronger leadership through federal policy and assistance developing infrastructure.

The third panel was mixed in its evaluations of H.R. 2641, the Calfed Bay-Delta Authorization Act, and Title II of H.R. 2828, which coordinates CALFED implementation activities. However, panelists provided specific, constructive recommendations for the program's next steps. Brent Walthall identified improving water conveyance, streamlining environmental regulations, and enhancing below-ground and above-ground storage as the "critical elements" that would improve yield and strengthen California's water supply if combined with recycling, desalination, and streamlined water transfers. Edward Osann was supportive of the integrative approach of CALFED to California's complex water resource issues, but stated the Natural Resources Defense Council's opposition to implementing the program through H.R. 2828 in its current form. Osann described a number of concerns with the bill, most notably the ambiguous authorization "that will fail to correct serious problems in the Administration's current approach to CALFED." According to Osann, decisions by the Bush Administration to "undermine, ignore, and defund" the program demonstrate a "lack of commitment to the implementation of CALFED pursuant to the ROD." Osann emphasized that an authorizing bill must remain consistent with requirements of the "carefully-crafted" ROD.

-BTB

U.S. House Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure
Subcommittee on Water Resources and Environment
Water: Is it the "Oil" of the 21st Century?

June 4, 2003

Witnesses
Bob Young, US Conference of Mayors, Mayor, Augusta, Georgia
Joseph K. Hoffman, Executive Director, Interstate Commission on the Potomac River Basin
William F. Mullican, III, Deputy Executive Administrator for Planning, Texas Water Development Board
T. Boone Pickens, Mesa Water, Inc.
William E. Cox, Assistant Department Head, Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering, Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University
Peter Gleick, Director, Pacific Institute for Studies in Development, Environment, and Security

On June 4, 2003, the House Transportation and Infrastructure Subcommittee on Water and Resources and Environment held the second of a two- part series of hearings entitled, "Water: Is it the "Oil" of the 21st Century?" The hearings' purpose, background, and written testimony are available online at the committee's website. The second hearing examined various responses to water scarcity. The committee heard testimony from a local administrator, a regional water commissioner, a commodity speculator, and research scientists. Each of the witnesses gave their testimony on how to deal with the water shortage problem. The solutions varied from interbasin transfer, regional resource coordination and planning, commercial selling of water, and increased amounts of conservation and water-use efficiency.

One of the key concerns of the members present was to determine the best solution to water scarcity. William Mullican said that there is no cookie cutter solution to the problem. Every community has different needs. He continued by saying that we need all the tools in the tool box. Peter Gleick said that conservation and efficiency have produced giant decreases in the amount of water used, and it is the cheapest and easiest method currently available to address the scarcity problem. Subcommittee Ranking Member Jerry F. Costello (D-IL) said that conservation was tied to pricing -- modifications in the pricing of water would be needed for increased conservation. He added that most people pay more for cable than they do for water.

The members present were also concerned about the consequences of diverting water out of watersheds away from natural habitats and down-stream communities. The panelists said that preliminary studies are done before water is diverted to determine flow rates that do not cause adverse effects on the environment or the surrounding communities.

-DRL

House Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure
Subcommittee on Water Resources and Environment
hearing on
Water: Is it the "Oil" of the 21st Century?
May 22, 2003

Witnesses
Michael G. Marschner, Director, Division of Utilities & Solid Waste Management, Frederick County, MD
Ronald R. Gastelum, President & CEO, the Metropolitan Water District of Southern California
Mr. Bob Stallman, President, American Farm Bureau Federation
Mr. Paul E. Dean II, North American Manufacturing Director, DOW Chemical Company's Environmental Operations Business

On May 22, 2003, the Water Resources and Environment Subcommittee held the first of a two- part series of hearings entitled, "Water: Is it the "Oil" of the 21st Century?" The hearing's purpose, background, and written testimony are available online at the committee's website. This first hearing was a review of water scarcity and demand within the US. The witnesses covered the effects of water shortages on municipalities, commercial water sales, agriculture, and industry. The second hearing, which will be held on June 4, will cover various responses to water supply problems.

In his opening statement, the Subcommittee ranking Democrat Rep. Jerry F. Costello (IL) expressed his concern for a safe and reliable source of water for the Nation's future. He emphasized that the US has been blessed with an abundant supply of water that has been essential for our economy and our quality of life. He said we have taken our blessing for granted because water is a finite resource.

Michael Marschner testified about the water demands placed on smaller water utilities, specifically in Frederick County, MD. The county's water supply shortage was caused by population increase, poor planning, and the drought of recent years. To avoid municipal water shortages, Marschner recommends emplacing an infrastructure that augments the existing water supply. Rep. Steve Pearce (R-NM) asked how to address the problems of conservation and affordability. Marschner said the more one uses, the more they pay. Relating it to gasoline prices, he pointed out the public determines the amount of gas they consume by how much they can afford to pay.

Ronald Gastelum testified on the behalf of the Metropolitan Water District of Southern California (MWD), which is a consortium of 26 cities and water districts in parts of Los Angeles, Orange, San Diego, Riverside, San Bernardino and Ventura counties. Gastelum told the committee about the MWD's Integrated Resource Plan (IRP), which relies on integrated sources (aqueducts, groundwater basins, surface water reservoirs and surface diversions to capture natural runoff), local resource development, conservation, recycling, and desalinization. Gastelum also said the IPR "offers 100 percent assurance that retail-level demands can be satisfied under all foreseeable hydrologic conditions." Pearce asked Gastelum what would happen to communities that could not afford to pay for an expensive water system. Gastelum said that he had no good answer for that, and said it was a complex public policy issue.

Bob Stallman testified on behalf of the agricultural community. Stallman stated the effects of water shortages on agriculture are very widespread. He mentioned that farming in the arid west has always had the task of dealing with water shortages but with the drought of the past few years, even the Midwest and the Northeast have felt the effects of water shortages. Stallman also mentioned that agriculture uses over fifty percent of our water resources.

Paul Dean testified on how the Dow Chemical Company approached the water shortage problem. Dean started by commenting on how the myth of water being a plentiful resource was really driven home when many of Dow's plants in the south came within a few days of stopping operations because of an inability to draw fresh water. The water shortage motivated Dow to take an active role in solving the water shortage problem. Internally, Dow has already increased efficiency of its water management and emplaced systems that would increase the amount of water it recycles. Dean concluded by saying, "it is only by working on this issue together that we can find solutions that assure that water will continue to enable, rather than limit, human progress." Subcommittee Chairman John J. Duncan (R-TN) asked what the best hope is: recycling, conservation, or desalinization. Dean responded we need conservation and innovation to work together to use our water resources more efficiently.

-DRL

House Transportation and Infrastructure Subcommittee on Water Resources and Environment
Hearing on H.R. 135, the "Twenty-First Century Water Commission Act of 2003"

May 7, 2003

Witnesses
Rep. John Linder (R-GA)
Lt. General Robert Flowers, Chief of Engineers, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers
Dr. Kathryn Jackson, Executive Vice President, Tennessee Valley Authority
Bob Young, Mayor of Augusta, Georgia, U.S. Conference of Mayors
Susan Gilson, Executive Director, Interstate Council on Water Policy

On May 7, 2003, the House Transportation and Infrastructure Subcommittee on Water Resources and Environment held a hearing to examine H.R. 135, the Twenty-first Century Water Commission. H.R. 135 was introduced by Rep. John Linder (R-GA) to assess future water supply and demand, and develop recommendations for a comprehensive water strategy. Throughout the hearing, witnesses and the subcommittee emphasized that the legislation is not intended to impose on state water rights, but -- according to Subcommittee Chairman John Duncan (R-TN) -- to provide federal expertise and technical assistance to the water problem.

The witnesses' testimonies and subcommittee comments were generally supportive of H.R. 135, as they were at the previous hearing in the House Resources Subcommittee on Water and Power. Rep. Vernon Ehlers (R-MI) said that he supported the bill but was unsure as to what the study would accomplish without concrete recommendations. Rep. Brian Baird (D-WA) recommended amending the legislation to allow Congress to appoint at least half of the water commission board members instead of allowing the President to appoint the full commission. The subcommittee responded positively to this idea. The Interstate Council on Water Policy suggested that the commission broaden its focus to more than water supply acquisition and development to include conservation, including alternative strategies such as water reuse and reclamation, desalination, and surface and groundwater conjunctive use.

-CEM

House Resources Subcommittee on Water and Power
Hearing on H.R. 135 and other water bills

April 1, 2003

Witnesses for H.R.135
Rep. John Linder (R-GA)
John W. Keys, III, Commissioner, Bureau of Reclamation, Department of the Interior
Dr. Peter Gleick, Director, Pacific Institute for Studies in Development, Environment, and Security
Robert Lynch, Attorney at Law, Phoenix, Arizona

On April 1, 2003, the House Resources Subcommittee on Water and Power held a hearing to receive testimony on three local water project bills and H.R. 135, a bill to establish the "Twenty-First Century Water Commission," a 7-member commission to study and develop recommendations for a comprehensive water strategy. Testimony from all the witnesses and comments from the representatives were overwhelmingly favorable for H.R. 135. Ranking Member Grace Napolitano (D-CA) called the legislation "long overdue," and Chairman Ken Calvert (R-CA) agreed, commenting that the bill recognizes that fresh water is not just an issue in the west.

Dr. Peter Gleick, Director of the Pacific Institute for Studies in Development, Environment, and Security, recommended the water commission remain broad, both in its objectives and its composition. He said the water commission should include representatives from all interested disciplines (scientists, economists, policy makers, etc.) and emphasized the need to focus on water management issues (such as conservation) instead of only water supply.

Rep. Steve Pearce (R-NM) mentioned his concern over the limited size of the commission, saying that it could place small states at a disadvantage. Rep. John Linder (R-GA), sponsor of H.R. 135, said the water commission was changed from 17 members to 7 members in order to improve the commission's effectiveness. He also stated that H.R. 135 is not a federal take-over of water policy, but rater it is a means to help coordinate efforts.

-CEM

House Resources Subcommittee on Water and Power
Water Supply and Reliability: The Role of Water Recycling

March 27, 2003

Witnesses
Betsy Cody, Specialist in Natural Resources, Congressional Research Service
Peggy Neely, Councilwoman, Phoenix, Arizona
General Eugene Habiger, USAF (Retired), President and CEO, San Antonio Water System
Joseph Grindstaff, General Manager, Santa Ana Watershed Project -- accompanied by Richard Atwater, CEO and General Manager, Inland Empire Utilities Agency
Mike Gritzuk, First Vice President, WateReuse Association
Doug Scott, Director, U.S. Water/Sewer Group Coordinator, Fitch Ratings

The House Resources Subcommittee on Water and Power held a hearing on March 27, 2003 to examine water recycling (i.e., the reclamation of wastewater from sanitary systems and surface runoff) as a way to ensure water supply, and to examine the value of federal involvement in funding water projects. This hearing is the first in a series of hearings to focus on water supply and reliability issues. Testimony was heard from analysts and industry representatives with experience in water recycling projects. The entire panel agreed that water recycling is an important way to ensure water supply and an important function of the Bureau of Reclamation (BuRec).

Ownership of recycled water was a reoccurring theme in the question and answer session. Mike Gritzuk, First Vice President of WateReuse Association, commented that recycled water is owned by the entity that recycled it. Richard Atwater, CEO and General Manager of Inland Utilities Agency, agreed with Gritzuk, but cautioned that ownership questions become more complicated downstream. General Eugene Habiger, President and CEO of the San Antonio Water System, said he believed recycled water should belong to the rate payer because they ultimately fund the projects. Rep. Steve Pearce (R-NM) asked whether federal government funding of BuRec projects inplies that recycled water belong to the federal government. Betsy Cody of the Congressional Research Service replied that this was a complicated issue. She said BuRec defers to the state on water ownership issues but often applies for water rights under state laws.

Rep. Rich Renzi (R-AZ) asked Habiger how San Antonio was able to decrease its water use by 33% while experiencing an increase in population. Habiger replied that along with their water recycling program, the city implemented a water conservation program by supporting low flow toilets and showers, educating children on water conservation, quickly fixing leaking or broken pipes, and sharing ideas with other successful water reduction programs, such as those in Israel.

Rep. Jay Inslee (D-WA) voiced concern about how global warming might affect local water supplies, especially in areas like Seattle that depend on snow pack for water storage. Atwater replied that Inslee's concerns were warranted because less snow pack would prevent water reserves from filling. He further commented that another consequence of global warming could be less predictable rainfall, which might also result in less water reserves in some areas. Atwater said possible global warming effects illustrate the importance of water recycling.

Renzi asked the panel where they saw future advancements and breakthroughs in water recycling. Gritzuk answered that treatment processes need to become more cost effective. Pearce asked what was done with the brine byproduct of water recycling. Gritzuk said this was an area that definitely requires technological breakthroughs to allow for recycling or reuse of the brine, but currently the brine is disposed of through dumping it into sewers, oceans, or large evaporation ponds.

-CEM

Senate Subcommittee on Water and Power
Hearing on S. 212

March 6, 2003

Witnesses
Senator Sam Brownback (R-KS)
William Alley, Chief of the Office of Ground Water, U.S. Geological Survery

On March 6, 2003, the Senate Subcommittee on Water and Power held a hearing to receive testimony on S. 212 that would authorize the United States Geological Survey (USGS) to work with the High Plains States -- Colorado, Kansas, Nebraska, New Mexico, Oklahoma, South Dakota, Texas, and Wyoming -- to conduct hydrogeologic characterization, mapping, modeling, and monitoring for the High Plains Aquifer. Senator Sam Brownback (R-KS) testified that the bill will provide necessary federal assistance to study the depletion of the Ogallala Aquifer in order to assist states in solving associated problems. He emphasized that the bill would not federalize water issues, which are normally handled at the state level, but would provide important resource information to the High Plain States. William Alley, Chief of the Office of Ground Water for the USGS, provided surprising testimony on behalf of the administration for the non-controversial bill. While agreeing with the need for groundwater monitoring, Alley said the administration was concerned about the bill's cost, and that better local and state coordination could achieve the goals of the bill without federal legislation. Senator Jeff Bingaman (D-NM), a co-sponsor of the bill, responded that because the aquifer covers multiple states, federal means should be provided to study its depletion and extent, and to provide assistance to state geologists in dealing with related issues. Senator Craig Thomas (R-WY) voiced the concern of the American Farm Bureau that (despite previous testimony to the contrary) the bill would begin the federalization of groundwater. Thomas also stated that the legislation is unnecessary because the USGS already studies the Ogallala aquifer. Bingaman reemphasized that the bill provides for improved monitoring and mapping, which hasn't been done in over 20 years, of the aquifer. Also, it would make funding available for states to study the Ogallala aquifer -- the USGS cannot provide funds directly to states for studies.

-CEM

Sources: Hearing testimony.

Contributed by Charna Meth, 2003 Spring Semester Intern, and Summer 2003 AGI/AIPG Interns Deric Learman and Brett Beaulieu.

Please send any comments or requests for information to AGI Government Affairs Program.

Last updated on August 18, 2003