- Radhika Fox, head of the EPA Office of Water, will leave her post at the end of February.
- Supreme Court rejects a petition to review a federal government veto of a contested Alaska mine.
- EPA advisory council will meet to discuss changes to federal rules on lead in drinking water.
- NOAA reviews the year in U.S. weather.
- USAID reports on its global water activities in 2023.
- Army Corps seeks a university partner to evaluate ecosystem services.
And lastly, senators from the western states ask their colleagues negotiating the farm bill to remember drought resilience.
“A changing climate has further altered the natural pattern of droughts, making them more frequent, longer, and more severe…This urgently requires Congress to invest in water and agricultural resilience. While drought conditions eased in many states this year, we cannot become complacent when our farmers and ranchers are in severe need of an appropriate drought safety net that ensures their long-term resiliency.” – Letter from 17 western U.S. senators to their colleagues on the Senate Agriculture, Nutrition, and Forestry Committee. Congress delayed reauthorization of the farm bill by a year, with a new deadline of September 2024.
By the Numbers
28: Weather disasters in 2023 in the U.S. that exceeded $1 billion in economic losses. That number is 40 percent higher than the five-year average. Most of these disasters were severe storms, according to NOAA’s annual review.
Changes at EPA Office of Water
Radhika Fox, the head of the EPA Office of Water, announced that she will leave her post at the end of February.
The Biden administration’s initial appointee for the position, Fox oversaw several high-profile rulemakings, including new regulations for lead and PFAS in drinking water. Neither of those rulemakings, however, has been finalized. Fox’s successor will see them across the finish line.
Supreme Court and Pebble Mine
The U.S. Supreme Court rejected a petition from the state of Alaska to review the federal government’s veto of a controversial mining project in the state, E & E News reports.
In January 2023, the EPA used its authority under the Clean Water Act to block the Pebble Mine, which would have been located in the headwaters of Bristol Bay, one of the world’s outstanding salmon habitats. The mine would have produced copper, gold, and molybdenum.
Studies and Reports
The U.S. Agency for International Development published its annual review for 2023.
Priorities included reducing water-related conflict, conserving freshwater resources, expanding water/sanitation/hygiene access, and boosting local governance and finance.
The fiscal year budget for water/sanitation/hygiene was $475 million.
On the Radar
National Drinking Water Advisory Council Meeting
The council, which advises the EPA, will meet virtually on January 31 to discuss the agency’s proposed changes to federal rules on lead in drinking water.
Registration details will be posted here. The meeting is scheduled for 10:30 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. Eastern.
Ecosystem Services Valuation
The Army Corps of Engineers is seeking a research partner for an initiative to measure the value of ecosystem services that would be affected by its water resource projects. Ecosystem services are things like the flood-regulating benefits of wetlands and the carbon stored in forests.
Applications are due March 11.
Brett writes about agriculture, energy, infrastructure, and the politics and economics of water in the United States. He also writes the Federal Water Tap, Circle of Blue’s weekly digest of U.S. government water news. He is the winner of two Society of Environmental Journalists reporting awards, one of the top honors in American environmental journalism: first place for explanatory reporting for a series on septic system pollution in the United States(2016) and third place for beat reporting in a small market (2014). He received the Sierra Club’s Distinguished Service Award in 2018. Brett lives in Seattle, where he hikes the mountains and bakes pies. Contact Brett Walton