Federal Water Tap, March 28: Washington Marks World Water Day

The Rundown

White House summit showcases water action. Companion event urges global response to water crises. Obama administration refocuses on drought planning. The Army Corps cancels billions of dollars of water projects. Research program starts new national initiative on nanotechnology for water.

“The premiere strategic threat to global security, and our own, is not a particular country, ideology, or weapon. It is human wants and needs — for the unsatisfied necessities for life-basics, including food, energy, water, and even dignity…The growing imbalance in global water supply and demand is evolving into the most toxic threat to world peace and international and U.S. national security.” — Gen. James Jones, a former national security adviser to President Obama, speaking on March 22 at a World Water Day summit in Washington, D.C.

By the Numbers

143: Commitments to water action from the private sector, utilities, universities, and other organizations that were announced at the White House water summit. John Holdren, the president’s science adviser, called the 37-page list the longest fact sheet the administration has ever released. (White House)

$US 14.3 billion: Cost of the 144 water projects “deauthorized” by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. The Water Resources Reform and Development Act of 2014 required the corps to cancel projects that met several conditions: they were approved before November 2007 and construction had either never begun or had not advanced in the last six years. (U.S. Army Corps)

$US 8.5 million: Grants to 10 universities for water quality and efficiency research. (U.S. Department of Agriculture)

News Briefs

World Water Day
On the United Nations calendar, March 22 is World Water Day. The Obama administration marked the day by highlighting its water technology agenda, which focuses on innovation to increase efficiency and reduce the cost of desalination and recycling.

The White House hosted a water summit that featured nearly 150 commitments to action by businesses, universities, and environmental groups. Ali Zaidi, an associate director at the Office of Management and Budget, told Circle of Blue that the administration knew there was demand for water action, but was not expecting such a high level of interest.

A companion summit on global water security was hosted by the U.S. Institute of Peace. Gen. James Jones, former national security adviser to President Obama, gave the keynote address, and several top-level State Department officials participated in panel discussions.

Obama Drought Memo
The White House, hoping to firm up Obama initiatives before he leaves office, also released a presidential memo on drought response. An action plan discusses the goals in more detail.

The memo formalized the National Drought Resilience Partnership, a forum established in 2013 to coordinate actions between local, state, and federal agencies.

The memo also requires federal agencies to adopt the administration’s preferred policy responses for drought resilience: data collection, coordination, planning, efficient water use, and assistance to local and state officials. A number of reports and actions, to be accomplished without additional funding, are due by December 31, 2016.

Sen. Maria Cantwell (D-WA) published her own water policy memo, a proposal that reflects most of the president’s key points.

Fix the Dam
President Obama sent Iraq’s prime minister a note pleading that the government repair the ailing Mosul Dam, Reuters reports.

“They dragged their feet on this,” a U.S. official told the news agency.

If the dam were to break, between 500,000 and 1.5 million people along the banks of the Tigris would need to be evacuated in order to survive the surge of water, according to the U.S. embassy. The government signed a contract on March 2 with an Italian firm to patch the dam, but repairs might not begin for months.

Studies and Reports

Federal Funding for Water
The Congressional Research Service reports on programs that Congress uses to fund municipal water treatment systems.

Spring Flood Risk Report
The lower and middle stretches of the Mississippi River Basin have a risk of moderate spring flooding as does the coastal South, according to NOAA analysis.

On the Radar

Thinking Big by Working Small
A U.S. government nanotechnology research program launched a new initiative on water technology.

The National Nanotechnology Initiative has three goals: increase water supplies through membrane purification, improve the performance of water delivery systems with new materials, and design components to monitor water systems.

Senate Hearing on Missouri River
On March 31, the Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works will hold a hearing to discuss the Army Corps’ management of the Missouri River.

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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