Federal Water Tap, July 6: U.S. Supreme Court to Take Up Water Case in Fall Session

The Rundown

Memphis and Mississippi will take their aquifer dispute to the nation’s highest court. California drought legislation will move quickly through the House. Water use per well for fracking skyrockets. States sue over the EPA’s Clean Water Act definition. State and federal gencies outline an Asian carp strategy.

“As House Majority Leader and your Representative, it is my duty to ensure this legislation and this issue is no longer ignored by liberals in Washington and Sacramento.” — Rep. Kevin McCarthy (R-CA), in an email newsletter, offering his support for a drought bill that was introduced in the House two weeks ago.

By the Numbers

$US 58 million: Funding, in fiscal year 2015, for controlling the spread of Asian carp in the Great Lakes. (Asian Carp Regional Coordinating Committee)

29 times: Increase between 2000 and 2014 in water used to hydraulically fracture, or frack, a horizontal gas well in the United States. Significant regional variations exist. (U.S. Geological Survey)

Reports and Studies

Water Studies
The Bureau of Reclamation will provide $US 1.5 million for several studies of watersheds in the American West. Comprehensive assessments of water supply and demand will take place in the Salinas and Carmel river basins, in California, and the Lower Santa Cruz River Basin, in Arizona. Smaller grants to plan for such a study will go to the Middle Rio Grande and Mojave river basins.

News Briefs

Clean Water Act Lawsuits
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency published in the Federal Register the final rule that defines the regulatory scope of the Clean Water Act. The rule will come into effect on August 28. Maybe.

More than two dozen states have filed lawsuits seeking to invalidate the rule, Farm Futures reports. The attorneys general who filed the suits claim that the rule is too broad and reaches too far. Challenges also come from Congress. The House passed a bill in May to reject the rule and force the EPA and Army Corps of Engineers, the other federal agency with Clean Water Act authority, to write a new one. A similar bill is in the Senate.

Mississippi v. Tennessee
The U.S. Supreme Court granted Mississippi’s request to file a lawsuit over groundwater resources shared with Tennessee. Mississippi claims that Memphis, Tennessee, is pumping so much water from the Sparta-Memphis Aquifer, which straddles the state border, that water beneath Mississippi soil is flowing into Tennessee. Mississippi is seeking $US 615 million in damages for the lost water. The state also wants the court to force Memphis to reconstruct its groundwater pumping system. This is Mississippi’s third attempt since 2005 to sue Tennessee over groundwater pumping. The Supreme Court denied Mississippi’s petition in 2010, as did a U.S. District Court in 2005.

On the Radar

California Drought Bill
On either July 8 or 9, the House Natural Resources Committee will consider and likely pass a California drought bill that was introduced in the last week of June and cosponsored by two dozen House Republicans and one Democrat.

Called the Western Water and American Food Security Act, the bill nonetheless focuses squarely on California’s water system. House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) said in an email newsletter that he expects to move the bill through the committee and “schedule it for swift consideration on the House floor the following week.”

Yakima River Basin Hearing
On July 7, the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee will hold a hearing on a bill to authorize new dam, pipeline, and pumping infrastructure at existing dams in the Yakima River Basin of Washington state. Introduced by Sen. Maria Cantwell (D-WA), the bill aims to improve river flows for salmon and provide reliable water supplies for irrigators by linking two reservoirs with a pipeline, and constructing a pumping station to access untapped supplies.

Drinking Water Council
The EPA is seeking nominations for the National Drinking Water Advisory Council, a 15-member panel that provides policy recommendations. Four new members will be selected for three-year terms. Email nominations by July 31 to schutz.michelle@epa.gov with the subject line NDWACResume2015.

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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