WASHINGTON, DC, Mar. 4, 2009 -- Today, the Committee on Science and Technology held a hearing to examine the need for a coordinated federal approach to water research and development, in an effort to help communities that are facing, or that will be facing, water shortages. Members also received testimony on H.R. 1145, The National Water Research and Development Initiative Act and on opportunities for the federal government to better coordinate and support research and technological innovation.
"Constraints on water supplies are taking a toll on society, our economy, and the environment," said Chairman Bart Gordon (D-TN). "Water is too valuable a resource for us to manage in a crisis-by-crisis fashion."
Witnesses from academia, industry and the environmental sectors discussed their views on the need for federal research and development in water supply, conservation and management. Committee Members and witnesses discussed the challenges of managing water supplies to meet the nation's needs in the face of population growth, increased energy demands, and changing weather patterns caused by climate change.
Droughts, changing patterns of precipitation and snowmelt, and increased water loss due to evaporation as a result of warmer air temperatures are indicators that climate variability and climate change have impacts that are being felt across the United States. Water supplies stored in glaciers and snow cover will decline in the course of the century, thus reducing water availability in regions supplied by melt water from major mountain ranges, according to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change's (IPCC) latest report.
Water shortages can negatively affect companies and entire industries and reduce job creation and retention. Increased water demand will come with increased costs to all businesses, industries, and municipalities that rely on the same water resources. For many municipalities, intense competition for water and diminished supplies force local water agencies to implement restrictions on usage and make other tough decisions on water allocations.
Chairman Gordon reintroduced The National Water Research and Development Initiative Act last month. The bill will coordinate national research and development efforts on water and, in the face of predicted droughts, work to ensure adequate water supplies for generations to come.
The legislation builds on previous efforts to coordinate federal research on water resources by establishing an interagency committee -- the Subcommittee on Water Availability and Quality (SWAQ) of the National Science and Technology Council. H.R. 1145 codifies this subcommittee and provides it explicit congressional authorization.
In addition, the bill incorporates recommendations from the 2004 report by the National Academies of Science entitled, Confronting the Nation's Water Problems: The Role of Federal Research. The report indicated that SWAQ is an effective forum for agencies to share information about their efforts on water, and it identified several issues to be addressed to make SWAQ an effective coordinating body.
"We need to ensure that federal dollars are utilized in a cost-effective manner," said Gordon. "We know that the U.S. is not getting its money's worth on water resources research because of a lack of coordination. This bill is a step towards rectifying that."