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Federal Water Tap, December 9: House Passes Water Bills

Fire Hydrants
The margin was atypical but not unprecedented. The House voted unanimously last week 384-0 to strike down a U.S. Environmental Protection Agency proposal that would require fire hydrants to cut the amount of lead in their piping. Representatives from both sides of the aisle agreed with national drinking water lobby groups, who claim that applying the rule to fire hydrants is unnecessary and expensive. A few exemptions to the rule exist already – for shower valves, for example.

Mike Keegan, policy analyst at the National Rural Water Association, told Circle of Blue that occasionally these “regulatory relief” measures will attract broad support – even today in an otherwise fractured Congress.

Hydropower
The House passed a bill that would allow irrigation districts to install turbines in federal canals and ditches for generating electricity, the Great Falls Tribune reported.

Water Supply Modeling
The U.S. Forest Service is going global with its tool for modeling future water availability. The Water Supply Stress Index will be used in three African countries – Rwanda, Tanzania, and Zambia – and in Mexico.

Those countries were selected because of a Forest Service partnership with the World Conservation Society, said Erika Cohen, a researcher at the USFS Eastern Forest Environmental Threat Assessment Center, which developed the tool.

WCS is designing a market-based system to place a value on an ecosystem’s ability to provide water and needed to understand the hydrology in those countries, Cohen told Circle of Blue. Funding for the tool’s expansion came from the U.S. Agency for International Development.

CEQ Chair Steps Down
Nancy Sutley, head of the White House Council on Environmental Quality, will leave her post in February 2014, the National Journal reports. Sutley, appointed at the beginning of President Barack Obama’s first term, is the longest-serving of the president’s top energy and environment officials.

Raise a California Reservoir?
Expanding the San Luis Reservoir in California’s San Joaquin Valley and reducing its risk of failure would cost $US 360 million, according to the Bureau of Reclamation.

The draft appraisal found that two-thirds of the money would be needed to safeguard the dam from earthquakes. Several fault lines run near the dam, located 193 kilometers (120 miles) southeast of San Francisco.

The reservoir is part of California’s State Water Project. Raising the dam would allow the reservoir to supply an additional 53 million cubic meters (43,000 acre-feet) of water to farmers and cities south of the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta, the pivot point in the state’s water canal system.

Comments on the appraisal are being accepted through January 17 and should be sent to waley@usbr.gov.

Pharmaceuticals in the San Antonio River
More evidence, this time from the U.S. Geological Survey, that wastewater treatment plants are not removing all the hormones, steroids, and flame retardants that man is putting into water supplies.

USGS researchers sampled water at 20 sites in the San Antonio River Basin. They found higher concentrations of the contaminants downstream of wastewater treatment outfalls. The researchers also noticed that concentrations decreased downstream, suggesting the contaminants are being broken down naturally but more study is needed on this point.

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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