Federal Water Tap, February 17: Congress Approves Funding for Drought Information System

Both chambers of Congress reauthorized a program that coordinates drought data, research, and outreach between the federal government, the states, and the public. The House funded the National Integrated Drought Information System at $US 13.5 million and the Senate at $US 12 million, two sums that will be reconciled.

Drought Aid
President Obama pledged $1.2 billion in drought aid for farmers, ranchers, and food banks. California, in a record drought, will claim roughly one-fifth of the sum. The president also announced that he will include a $US 1 billion fund for climate research and adaptation in his 2015 budget, due in March.

Toxic Algae Blooms
Eleven disease outbreaks in three states in 2009-10 were attributed to algae blooms, according to data released by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Algae blooms accounted for nearly half the disease outbreaks from freshwater. Some 61 people in New York, Ohio, and Washington had symptoms that affected their breathing, skin, or stomach. The Great Lakes are especially at risk of toxic algae outbreaks, as Circle of Blue recently reported.

Drinking Water Contamination
The government’s internal watchdog recommends that Congress should amend the Safe Drinking Water Act to allow the Environmental Protection Agency to monitor more than 30 unregulated contaminants, the current legal limit. The Government Accountability Office also argues that the EPA should ensure it is using the most recent data available when making regulatory decisions.

Costly Weather
The GAO identified four areas in which extreme weather events affect the federal government’s budget. Crop and flood insurance, disaster aid, and infrastructure assistance to the states are sources of direct payments. The federal government also owns assets such as buildings and military bases that could be at risk.

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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