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November 17, 2009

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Government Relations

U.S. Using Less Water According to USGS

The United States is using less water than during the peak years of 1975 and 1980, according to water use estimates for 2005. Despite a 30 percent population increase during the past 25 years, overall water use has remained fairly stable according to a new U.S. Geological Survey report. The declines are largely attributed to the increased use of more efficient irrigation systems and alternative technologies at power plants.

Every five years, the U.S. Geological Survey — the nation's largest water, earth and biological science and civilian mapping agency — compiles and estimates water-use information in cooperation with state, federal and local agencies to document how the nation’s water resources are used.

In its recently released “Summary of Estimated Water Use in the United States in 2005,” USGS reports that an estimated 410,000 million gallons per day (Mgal/d) of water was withdrawn for use in the United States in 2005, less than 1 percent lower than the estimated withdrawals for 2000 (413,000 Mgal/d). About 80 percent of the total withdrawal (328,000 Mgal/d) was from surface water, and about 82 percent of the surface water withdrawn was freshwater. The remaining 20 percent was withdrawn from groundwater, of which about 96 percent was freshwater.

At 49 percent of total withdrawals, or 201,000 Mgal/d., water for thermoelectric power represents the largest category of water use in 2005. Withdrawals for irrigation accounted for 31 percent of total withdrawals, or 128,000 Mgal/d.

Water withdrawn for domestic, industrial, commercial and other public supply uses accounted for about 11 percent of the total water withdrawn — third only to thermoelectric power and irrigation. Self-supplied domestic withdrawals from wells and other private sources accounted for 3,830 Mgal/d, which provided water for about 42.9 people, or 14 percent of the U.S. population.

Water withdrawals in four states — California, Texas, Idaho and Florida — accounted for more than one-fourth of all fresh and saline water withdrawn in the United States in 2005.

For water use trends since 1950 and information on 2005 withdrawals by category and state, access the full report summary here.


WGCC and WSCC Release Strategic Roadmap

Water and wastewater infrastructure protection is a shared responsibility. The Water Government Coordinating Council (WGCC) is chaired by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and made up of representatives from federal, regional, state, local and tribal government programs. The Water Sector Coordinating Council (WSCC) members include municipal and investor-owned water and wastewater utilities, associations, and regional organizations. Together, these coordinating councils form the public-private partnership through which security partners collaborate to plan and implement programs aimed at achieving a common vision.

As part of that collaboration and coordination, the WSCC and WGCC have come together to develop the Roadmap to a Secure & Resilient Water Sector.

The purpose of the roadmap is to establish a strategic framework that:

  • Defines a consensus-based strategy that articulates the priorities of industry and government in the Water Sector to manage and reduce risk.
  • Produces an actionable path forward for the WGCC, WSCC and security partners to improve the security and resilience of the Water Sector over the near term (1-2 years) and mid term (3-5 years).
  • Directly guides new product development (e.g., EPA can use the roadmap to guide fiscal year (FY) 2010 work planning and FY 2011 budget formulation).
  • Creates a shared understanding of priorities to avoid unpleasant surprises, collectively advocate Sector priorities, and recognize institutional constraints and different accountabilities.
  • Encourages extensive engagement among all key stakeholders to strengthen public-private partnerships and accelerate security advances throughout the Water Sector.

For a copy of the Roadmap, please click here.


House Passes Chemical Security Legislation

The House recently passed H.R. 2868, the Chemical and Water Security Act of 2009, mostly along party lines, 230-193. Twenty-one Democrats opposed the bill.

Under the legislation, drinking water and wastewater utilities will remain exempt from the Department of Homeland Security’s CFATS chemical facility security regulations. However, drinking water systems will be required to update their existing vulnerability assessments (VAs) and emergency response plans (ERPs) at least every five years, and complete site security plans (SSPs) detailing how security vulnerabilities are being addressed. Wastewater utilities will also have to complete and keep updated VAs, ERPs and SSPs.

H.R. 2868 grants EPA the regulatory oversight of drinking water and wastewater facilities.

Under the bill, the EPA would not have the authority to mandate the implementation of Inherently Safer Technology (IST). Instead, only state primacy agencies will be able to directly review utility IST decisions and make a determination on the implementation. Utilities will be guaranteed the right to appeal the outcome of a state review with which it disagrees.

The bill can be found by clicking here.


2009 Water Utility Security Measures Reporting Process Now Closed

The voluntary reporting process for the 2009 water sector-specific security measures process closed on Oct. 30. Thank you to all of the utilities that participated in this important effort to help track and communicate progress toward increased security and resilience in the water sector.

Final reports from the measures process should be available in January 2010; participants may request a copy of the aggregated measurement results or download them via the WaterISAC public Web site.

For questions or additional information, please contact Vance Taylor.


EPA Launches Environmental Response Laboratory Network

EPA has launched the Environmental Response Laboratory Network (ERLN), and is recruiting state, federal, local and commercial laboratories. The ERLN is coordinating these recruitment efforts with the launch of EPA's Water Laboratory Alliance, a new part of the ERLN that focuses on state and local drinking and wastewater utility laboratories.

The EPA established the ERLN to assist in addressing chemical, biological and radiological threats during nationally significant incidents. The ERLN is a national network of laboratories that can be ramped up as needed to support large-scale environmental responses by providing consistent analytical capabilities, capacities and quality data in a systematic, coordinated response. The ERLN integrates capabilities of existing public-sector laboratories with accredited private-sector labs to support environmental responses.

The deadline for application is Dec. 30, 2009.

For more information, please click here.


Climate Change Bill Advances in Senate Committee

The Senate Environment and Public Works Committee, chaired by Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.), used some unusual committee procedures to approve a controversial climate change bill during a recent meeting. Under committee rules, at least two members of the minority party must be present at a committee meeting to consider amendments to legislation. All of the Republicans on the committee, however, boycotted the meeting on the climate bill in an attempt to halt it. Sen. Boxer then sidestepped the rule by not considering amendments and simply had the committee vote on the bill as introduced. The bill was approved with the votes of only committee Democrats, though one voted against it.

While this action does move the bill along in the process, the strategy angered many Republicans, some of whom the Democrats may need to pass the bill when it comes before the full Senate.

There are several other Senate committees that must also act before the bill goes to the full Senate. It is generally agreed that such a bill won’t be before the full Senate for consideration until well into next year, if then.