House Bill Would Promote Water Research Programs

June 1, 2009
The House of Representatives has passed a bill creating a panel to coordinate the activities of various government agencies in an effort to improve federal water research and development.

By Patrick Crow, Washington Correspondent

The House of Representatives has passed a bill creating a panel to coordinate the activities of various government agencies in an effort to improve federal water research and development.

The bill, the National Water Research and Development Initiative Act, now awaits Senate action.

The legislation, by Rep. Bart Gordon (D-Tenn.), would have the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration lead a team to guide federal water research, development, demonstration, data collection and dissemination in order to respond to changes in U.S. water use, supply and demand.

The task force would draft a National Water Availability Research and Assessment Plan to coordinate water research and development projects at all levels of government. The plan would have specific goals, such as implementing a national water census.

The House amended the bill to give water resource managers input on research needs. Another amendment specified that the assessment plan should help water resource managers anticipate regional water supply and demand fluctuations due to climate change.

A third amendment would create an Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) wastewater and stormwater reuse pilot program, which could provide communities with an option as they plan for water supply reductions.

Diane VanDe Hei, executive director of the Association of Metropolitan Water Agencies, said the legislation “will make several much-needed improvements to federally sponsored water research, which will generate critical information for America’s drinking water utilities.”

Best Management Practices

Six major U.S. water and wastewater associations have issued case studies to help utility managers achieve best management practices.

The Effective Water and Wastewater Utility Management Case Studies supplements Effective Utility Management (EUM), released last year. Both were prepared in collaboration with EPA.

The six associations were the American Public Works Association, the American Water Works Association, the Association of Metropolitan Water Agencies, the National Association of Clean Water Agencies, the National Association of Water Companies, and the Water Environment Federation.

“The case studies complement last year’s Primer and online toolkit by showing how sister water sector agencies have applied the process in very practical ways to help improve their quality of service,” said Ed McCormick, manager of support services at the East Bay Municipal Utility District in Oakland, CA.

The new case study document features the Columbus, GA, Water Works, the Green Bay, WI, Metropolitan Sewerage District, the Gwinnett County, GA, Department of Water Resources, and the Massachusetts Water Resources Authority.

Global River Study

The National Center for Atmospheric Research (NCAR) has reported that rivers in some of the world’s most populous regions are losing water, partly due to global warming.

The scientists, who examined river flows from 1948 to 2004, found significant changes in a third of the world’s largest rivers. Of those, rivers with decreased flow outnumbered those with increased flow by a ratio of about 2.5 to 1.

The researchers analyzed 925 of the planet’s largest rivers, combining actual measurements with computer-based stream flow models to fill in data gaps.

Several of the rivers with reduced throughput serve large populations, including the Yellow River in northern China, the Ganges in India, the Niger in West Africa and the Colorado in the southwestern U.S. Meanwhile, the scientists reported greater stream flows near the Arctic Ocean due to increased snow and ice melting.

NCAR scientist Aiguo Dai said, “Reduced runoff is increasing the pressure on freshwater resources in much of the world, especially with more demand for water as population increases. Freshwater being a vital resource, the downward trends are a great concern.”

Although dams and the diversion of water for agriculture and industry can reduce flows, the researchers said the major cause seems to be a warmer climate, which is altering precipitation patterns and increasing the rate of evaporation.

In the U.S., the Columbia River’s flow declined by about 14% during the 1948-2004 study period, largely because of reduced precipitation and higher water usage in the West. The Mississippi River, however, has increased by 22% over the same period because of greater precipitation across the Midwest since 1948.

The National Science Foundation, NCAR’s sponsor, supported the research.

In other Washington news:

    – Peter Silva, senior policy advisor at the Metropolitan Water District of Southern California, was nominated to be the EPA’s Assistant Administrator for Water. Silva has been involved in the drinking water industry for more than 30 years and has been a member of the California Water Resources Control Board.

    – Anne Castle has been nominated to serve as the Interior Department’s Assistant Secretary for Water and Science. Castle, a partner in the Denver law office of Holland & Hart, has more than 25 years of experience in water rights, water quality and natural resources law.

    – EPA has waived the “Buy American” requirements for some water and wastewater in the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA), grandfathering some projects that that incurred debt before the bill became law.

    – EPA has earmarked $600 million in ARRA funding to accelerate the cleanup of hazardous waste (Superfund) sites and fund new projects.

    – The Agriculture Department will allocate $84.8 million under the ARRA to help state and local governments improve water quality, increase water supply, decrease soil erosion, and improve fish and wildlife habitat in rural communities.

    – Separately, Agriculture earmarked $615.8 million in ARRA funds for more than 190 water and environmental projects in rural communities in 34 states, creating or saving 12,385 jobs.

    – The Department of Interior will spend $1 billion in ARRA funding for water infrastructure projects, a fourth of it going to California. Of the $1 billion, nearly half will go for water recycling projects and rural water projects.

    – EPA plans to study the occurrence of 200 chemical compounds at drinking water treatment plants. EPA’s Office of Research and Development and the U.S. Geological Survey will conduct the sampling program at 50 plants that have wastewater inputs into the source water.

    – New York Gov. David Paterson has ordered state agencies to use tap water rather than bottled water. He said, “Taxpayers have spent billions of dollars to ensure that we have clean drinking water supplies. If we are going to make such significant investments, we should reap the benefits and use that water.”

    – The Perdido Bay Water, Sewer and Fire Protection District in Elberta, AL, won the National Rural Water Association’s annual Great American Water Taste Test. The Allen County Water District of Scottsville, KY, won second place.

    – AWWA has published two math guides for wastewater treatment operators. It said most water and wastewater operators say math gives them the most trouble on their certification exams and on the job.

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