Federal Water Tap, September 10: State Department Releases Report on Water Spending

The U.S. government spent US$734 million on water-related activities in fiscal year 2011, according to a State Department report. This represents a 23 percent drop from the previous year, when US$953 million was spent. Roughly one out of every two dollars in fiscal year 2011 was spent on drinking water, sanitation and hygiene. The annual report to Congress is required as part of the 2005 Paul Simon Water for the Poor Act.

Cross-Border Cooperation
Representatives from the U.S. and Canada signed amendments to a 40-year-old agreement for managing water quality in the Great Lakes. The new agreement includes stipulations to reduce phosphorous pollution and to control aquatic invasive species, the Chicago Tribune reports.

Congress Returns
Summer break over, Congress is back in session this week. Several Senate committees will be taking a look at the nuclear industry. The Committee on Environment and Public Works will hold a hearing Wednesday on the federal nuclear regulator’s recommendations for reactor safety. The same day, the Energy and Natural Resources Committee will discuss a bill that would establish a new agency for handling nuclear waste.

In a related development, the Department of Energy announced it would extend the public comment period for its supplemental environmental assessment for disposing of surplus plutonium. Comments are being accepted through October 10 and can be emailed to spdsupplementaleis@saic.com.

‘No More Solyndras’ Vote
On Friday the House will vote on the No More Solyndras Act, named for a solar panel manufacturer that went bankrupt after receiving a federal loan guarantee. The bill would prohibit the Department of Energy from issuing any guarantees under that particular loan program for applications submitted after December 31, 2011. The bill also puts U.S. taxpayers ahead of other investors in the pecking order for loan repayment.

Colorado River Study Delayed
The Bureau of Reclamation announced that the final report in a three-year study of water supplies in the Colorado River Basin will be delayed two months, until November 2012. The final report will assess more than 150 options submitted by the public for closing the projected gap between supply and demand through the year 2060.

Drought Update
The dry summer of 2012 continues. According to the U.S. Drought Monitor, just over 63 percent of the Lower 48 states is in some stage of drought. Combined with heat, the lack of rain has sped up corn development. The U.S. Department of Agriculture reports that 41 percent of the crop is mature, compared to a 2007-2011 average of 16 percent for this time of year.

Sewage Lawsuit
The state of Arizona has taken a federal water agency to court to stop it from dumping sewage with high levels of heavy metals and other chemicals into state waters, the Arizona Daily Sun reports. Most of the pollutants come from industries in Mexico, but they flow to a treatment plant operated by the International Boundary and Water Commission, which oversees water treaties between the two countries.

Federal Water Tap is a weekly digest spotting trends in U.S. government water policy. To get more water news, follow Circle of Blue on Twitter and sign up for our newsletter.

Author: Brett Walton  is a Seattle-based reporter for Circle of Blue. He writes our Federal Water Tap, a weekly breakdown of U.S. policy. Interests: Southwest, Pacific Northwest, Pricing, Infrastructure.

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