Federal Water Tap, April 4: Water Visions from Legislators, Administrators and Scientists

Crossed Lines in the Senate Energy Committee
A water-energy bill that was introduced but not passed in the last Congress was the subject of a Senate committee hearing last week. Introduced in 2009 by Sen. Jeff Bingaman (D-N.M.), the bill included provisions for several water-energy studies (one by the National Academy of Sciences, another by the Department of Energy), water-energy reporting mandates, research programs, conservation grants, and a road map for future efforts.

At the Energy and Natural Resources Committee hearing held March 31, Alaska Republican Lisa Murkowski said: “Given the current turmoil in North Africa and the Middle East, I find it interesting that the linkages between energy and water systems were first identified and studied in the 1970s following the OPEC oil embargo. Since that time, however, minimal investments in research and development have occurred.” Perhaps she didn’t hear about the water-energy Road Map report shelved by the DOE?

EPA’s Strategy for Protecting America’s Waters
The Environmental Protection Agency has released its two-year strategy for protecting national water bodies and public health. Look for the agency to continue to clamp down on point-source polluters, to expand water quality monitoring, to lobby for stronger pollution standards, and to encourage clean technology and better management practices.

Don’t Forget About the Other ‘Stans
A Senate Foreign Relations Committee report argues that the U.S. pays too little attention to water issues in Central Asia, especially in relation to the downstream effects of development policies in Afghanistan. A committee staffer told Circle of Blue that U.S. policy in Afghanistan is focused on shifting farmers from poppy cultivation to orchards and expanding irrigated agriculture, without knowing how increased water withdrawals will affect the countries that share the rivers. This could be mitigated by simply keeping track of irrigated acreage. Other recommendations include: investing in demand-reduction technology, encouraging intra-basin dialogue, strengthening water institutions, and collecting hydrologic data. The report also examines U.S. policy in the India-Pakistan hydropolitical context.

USGS Water Study
The U.S. Geological Survey has released a draft report on observing changes to the nation’s freshwater resources as a result of climate change. The federal scientific body recommends better monitoring, data collection and agency coordination. The draft is available for public review until April 22. Send comments to tschertz@usgs.gov. Include “9506 Report” in the subject line and full name and address in the body of the message. Comments become part of the public record.

Bureau of Reclamation Hydropower Assessment
The Bureau of Reclamation says that it could economically develop 225 MW of hydropower generation at 70 sites it manages. The finding is part of a report assessing the feasibility of hydropower installations at existing dams, canals and tunnels. Sites in Colorado, Montana and Utah account for more than half of the potential new capacity.

BLM Hearings
The Bureau of Land Management has announced a series of regional hearings to discuss the use of hydraulic fracturing to drill for natural gas on federal lands. The sessions will be held in late April in Bismarck, N.D., Little Rock, Ark., and Denver, Colo. The sites were selected because they are near gas production fields that the BLM regulates.

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.

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