August 1, 2013 | Posted by admin
Water Management, The Economy and National Security
Carol R. Collier
I’d like your opinion on a topic that I think is growing in importance. That is the need for some sort of national water policy, strategy, or vision ……. whatever you feel comfortable calling it. I know there are concerns that “top down” mandates might impede regional, state or local planning initiatives and that differences in eastern and western water law and management make setting a nation-wide course impractical.
HOWEVER, without some national direction on water planning and management, will we have a secure economic future? A secure future as a unified nation? Can we answer the questions: will we have enough water in 2040 or 2060? Where will the problems be? Is this Nation more vulnerable since we are not adequately planning for the future of our water resources? Most importantly – what are the solutions and how will we pay for them?
The USGS Water Census program was developed to assess national water availability and use at the regional and national scale. The USGS is preparing watershed budgets and identifying areas of concern. In many areas of the country, this type of assessment has never been done before. While this initiative and other research studies and water assessments are helping to fill the gaps in our understanding, most water management is still conducted within silos (e.g. with a focus solely on surface water or groundwater) or by political jurisdictions. If more growth is projected for a municipality or region, the directive is often just to find new water. The question should be – do we currently have or in the future will we have enough water to provide an adequate supply? How do we balance supply and demand in the light of uncertain weather patterns?
Management of water cannot and should not come under federal control because there is no one agency responsible for all aspects of water and the nation’s water issues are too diverse. The 30 + federal agencies that have a role in water management can provide vital support in planning, implementation and funding, however, their efforts will be far more effective if there is better coordination among them. On the other hand, the piece meal approach to water management that we currently have in the country is not cost effective or sustainable.
There are signs of cooperation. The U. S. Army Corps of Engineers is developing a “tool box” of ways federal agencies can assist states and inter-state agencies. The Western States Water Council (WSWC) has a Water Vision and works with The Western States Federal Agency Support Team (WestFAST), a collaboration among 12 Federal agencies with water management responsibilities in the West. However, this initiative is not duplicated in other regions. We need an umbrella policy from the federal government, with the tools and resources to implement it on a basin scale, not by political boundaries. This point is important. Political subdivisions need to work together to develop implementation strategies within a hydrologic context – defined by watersheds and basins.
There are many ways to address the issue. Here is one to consider:
Washington (Executive Order possibly) calls for integrated water resources management across the Nation. An U.S. Water Resources Council is created to set policy objectives and provide funding and incentives for the development of strategies to address supply and demands for humans and ecological communities at a basin-scale under future scenarios. Federal, state, inter-state, and NGO teams prepare water management plans for single or multiple basins, such as basins west of the Rockies, the Mississippi River basin, Northeast U.S. basins, and Southeast U.S. basins. Alternatively, a finer scale is used. A key point is that implementation of the national policies and goals occurs at the watershed or basin level. Changes in water management will only work if there is buy-in from decision makers and local communities. There needs to be a national push for “WHAT” needs to be accomplished, but the “HOW” it will be accomplished should be dictated at the basin- scale.
If you are interested in more background on these issues, the Pacific Institute recently published the book – A Twenty-First Century U.S. Water Policy, by Christian-Smith and Gleick, Oxford University Press, 2012.
We can have our political independence and still have a more cost-effective and secure water system if we plan now for the demands of the future. I know it is a controversial issue, but I’m hoping we can find our way. Please provide your opinions on the AWRA blog. I’ll be looking forward to reading your responses.
- GAO to Update 2003 Report on Freshwater Shortages The Government Accountability Office (GAO) recently announced that it will do...
Related posts brought to you by Yet Another Related Posts Plugin.