House Proposes Commission to Study Water Availability Issues

The US House of Representatives is considering a measure to create a federal water planning commission to study water availability issues in the United States

By James Laughlin

The US House of Representatives is considering a measure to create a federal water planning commission to study water availability issues in the United States and craft a report identifying ways to ensure a dependable water supply for the next 50 years.

The 21st Century Water Policy Commission Establishment Act, H.R. 135, is sponsored by Rep. John Linder (R-GA). In April, the House Resources Water and Power Subcommittee passed the bill by voice vote with no amendments. The provision still must be approved by the full House. There is no Senate version yet, but the measure does not appear to be controversial and could pass the full Congress by summer.

The bill would establish a seven member panel of experts tasked with creating a report on water availability issues that would be due three years after the formation of the commission. The commission would dissolve a month after the report is issued to Congress.

Supporters of the act are concerned that the nation's water resources will be stressed by rising demand and pollution in the coming decades, and believe a comprehensive strategy to increase available water supplies is vital to the economic and environmental future of the country.

Commission members will be asked to use existing water assessments and conduct their own assessments as needed to project future water supply and demand. They will also study current water management programs and consult with industry experts as they work to develop recommendations for a comprehensive water strategy.

Authors of the act have included wording that directs the commission to respect the role of states in adjudicating, administering, and regulating water rights and water uses, and to suggest strategies that avoid increased mandates on state and local governments.

Other goals include limiting duplication and conflict among federal governmental programs and making maximum use of available technologies for increasing water supply efficiently while safeguarding the environment. Commission members also will be asked to recommend financing options for public works projects and suggest strategies to conserve existing water supplies, including recommendations for repairing aging infrastructure.

The seven-member panel would be appointed by the President and would be asked to hold a minimum of 10 meetings around the country. The goal is to have a panel that is representative of the country's various regions and be made up of people with significant standing when it comes to water policy issues.

The House bill would authorize $9 million to fund the commission's work. In return, the commission would be expected to submit interim reports every six months containing a detailed summary of its progress. A final report would be due within three years, and would include a detailed statement of the findings, conclusions and recommendations of the commission.

To view the bill, visit http://thomas.loc.gov.

James Laughlin, Editor

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