Federal Water Tap, December 5: Pakistan and the Arctic

A high-level official from the U.S. State Department met with counterparts from Pakistan last month during the fourth water “dialogue” between the two countries. The U.S. government has given Pakistan money for irrigation, hydroelectric, and water supply projects under the Kerry-Berman-Lugar bill—legislation signed in 2009 that authorizes $7.5 billion in aid to Pakistan.

Pakistan has asked the U.S. and others in the international community to help finance the Diamer Bhasha dam. The 4,500 MW dam on the Indus River—which was not on the original projects list—would be one of the world’s tallest at 270 meters (885 feet). A State Department official confirmed to Circle of Blue that the U.S. government is speaking with the Pakistanis about the dam, but that no decisions have been made. The official did not know what criteria the U.S. government is using to evaluate whether it should support the dam.

The Arctic
This is not the green you want to see. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, in partnership with scientists from 14 countries, has released its annual “report card” for the Arctic region. Reporting started in 2006. The scientists observed warmer land temperatures along the coasts, warmer (and less salty) surface ocean temperatures, a decline in the thickness and extent of summer sea ice, and more tundra vegetation. According to one of the report’s authors, the Arctic is seeing “record-setting changes” with regional and global consequences.

Water Maps
The U.S. Forest Service has published an interactive map showing the role forests play in regulating water resources. The map will help identify the most important areas for conservation.

NASA has published satellite images showing the state of aquifers in the U.S. The drought in Texas has contributed to a statewide hoovering of groundwater. Texas aquifers are at their lowest levels in the last 63 years.

Keystone XL
Indiana Senator Richard Lugar, a Republican, introduced a bill that would force the Obama administration to issue a permit within 60 days approving the Keystone XL pipeline—unless the administration finds that the pipeline does not “serve the national interest.” The oil conduit would link Canada’s tar sands to refineries on the Gulf Coast. In his press conference, Sen. Lugar argued that the pipeline was necessary for energy security and that it would create 20,000 jobs—most of them temporary construction jobs.

Clean Energy
New Mexico Senator Jeff Bingaman, a Democrat, asked the Energy Information Administration to evaluate the effects of a national clean energy standard on energy choices, greenhouse gas emissions, and the economy. The report does not mention water, even though last Congressional session the senator introduced a bill that would fund research on the connection between water and energy in the U.S.

Carbon Capture
Last month a large-scale carbon-capture demonstration project created by the Department of Energy began injecting carbon dioxide into a salt layer more than a mile underground. The project, which captures emissions from an ethanol production plant in Illinois, is one of seven across the U.S. designed to test different geologic formations and technologies for carbon capture.

Piling On
In October, Senators questioned the decisions made by the Army Corps of Engineers during this year’s record-breaking flood season along the Missouri River. Last week, House members took a turn. The St. Louis Post-Dispatch reports that House Transportation and Infrastructure subcommittee members argued that flood control should be the Corps’s top priority, not just one of eight priorities areas, including navigation and wildlife.

Senate Hearing
On December 8, a Senate Energy and Natural Resources subcommittee will hear testimony on domestic and global water supply issues.

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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