Federal Water Tap, February 4: Water Crises a Global Threat, Says National Intelligence Director

James Clapper, director of national intelligence, presented the 2014 assessment of global security threats to the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence last week. For the fourth consecutive report, a section is dedicated to water.

“Risks to freshwater supplies – due to shortages, poor quality, floods, and climate change – are growing,” according to the 31-page report. “These forces will hinder the ability of key countries to produce food and generate energy, potentially undermining global food markets and hobbling economic growth.”

The report calls out North Africa, the Middle East, and South Asia as regions that will have the most difficulty adapting because of large populations and relative poverty.

The report also notes that terrorists and extremists may target water infrastructure or use grievances from an inadequate supply as a recruiting or fundraising tool.

Water scarcity first appeared in the annual threat assessment in 2008, as a factor in food production. A year earlier, world grain prices skyrocketed, leading to riots in dozens of countries. Water earned its own section in 2011. Circle of Blue has a short history of water’s standing in the threat assessments, which began in 2006.

Texas v New Mexico
The U.S. Supreme Court cleared a path to its doors by granting Texas’s motion to file a complaint over the Rio Grande Compact. Texas claims that groundwater use in New Mexico is cutting into the water that should flow to Texas from the Rio Grande.

California Water Bill
California Republicans introduced a bill in the House in response to the historic drought covering the state. The Sacramento-San Joaquin Valley Emergency Water Delivery Act would repeal the San Joaquin River restoration and divert water that would support fisheries to farms and towns in the Central Valley.

California’s secretary of natural resources opposed the bill, in a letter to the House Natural Resources Committee leadership.

Water-Energy Bill
A bill introduced by the Republican and Democratic leaders of the Senate Energy Committee would create a federal committee for coordinating the water and energy goals of more than a dozen agencies. The Energy and Interior secretaries would chair the committee, to be housed under the National Science and Technology Council, an executive branch agency.

Chemicals Oversight
After the chemical spill into West Virginia’s Elk River, Congress is holding hearings. Today, the Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works is discussing drinking water safety. Government officials, industry representatives, advocates, and a lawyer are on the witness list. An archived video of the hearing will be available here.

The House, meanwhile, is taking a field trip. On Monday, the Transportation and Infrastructure Committee will travel to Charleston, West Virginia, site of the spill.

Drought Hearing, Please
Democrats on the House Natural Resources Committee requested a hearing to learn about how drought is affecting the nation, in a letter to the committee’s Republican leadership. The letter mentions fisheries in California and Florida’s Apalachicola Bay, depleted reservoirs in California and in the Colorado River Basin, and the threat of fires.

Coal Ash
The EPA will publish a rule regulating coal ash by December 19, according to a consent decree signed in U.S. district court last week.

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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