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U.S. Governors Address Water

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State of the State speeches highlight water resources

Kansas Ogallala Aquifer irrigation corn harvest brian lehmann Circle of Blue

Photo © Brian Lehmann / Circle of Blue
Harvesting irrigated corn near Edson, Kansas. In his State of the State speech on January 12, Governor Sam Brownback discussed efforts to conserve the Ogallala Aquifer, which is the lifeblood of irrigated agriculture in western Kansas. Click image to enlarge.

President Barack Obama did not directly mention water in the State of the Union speech on Tuesday night. References to climate change were the closest he came.

But governors, in their State of the State addresses, are not as circumspect. Because water is managed primarily at the state and local level, state leaders often have an ardent interest in the topic — this year perhaps even more than usual. A potentially precedent-setting Clean Water Act lawsuit in Iowa filed a year ago forced state officials to look for new approaches to farm pollution. Drought in the American West prompted a reexamination of state water policies. And the slow draining of the Ogallala Aquifer, lifeblood of the Great Plains, continues to weigh on Kansas.

Around one-third of governors have delivered their speeches. More will follow in the next few weeks, including Michigan Governor Rick Snyder’s address on January 19, in which he is expected to discuss the Flint lead contamination crisis.

Below are summaries of the governors’ remarks and the text of their speeches.


Governor Doug Ducey (R) drew a contrast between California’s drought emergency and Arizona’s forward-thinking water policies that helped keep hydrological deprivation at bay. The reality is a bit more complex. Yes, Arizona passed a groundwater act more than three decades ago that was ahead of its time. And the state does store surplus Colorado River water underground, in case of a shortage. But outside the designated groundwater management areas, aquifers are largely unregulated. Streamflows and water tables have dropped in the state’s southeast corner.

In his speech, Ducey also promoted a “water augmentation council” that he appointed in December to investigate new sources of water. Brackish groundwater is expected to be an option when the council’s report is filed July 1.

“It’s often misreported that there is a “Western Water Crisis,” but the facts show, we’d be more accurate to call it a “California Water Crisis.”

We’ve planned ahead.

If there’s one thing Arizona is best in the nation at — it’s water. We sit in the Capitol city in one of the largest metropolitan areas in the nation in the middle of a desert.

Thanks to revolutionary planning efforts like our 1980 Groundwater Management Act, and leaders from Carl Hayden to Mo Udall to Jon Kyl, Arizona has grown and thrived.

We’re building on that, and we have a plan in motion. Right now, a team of our top water experts, users and providers are charting the path forward.

I’ve directed them to:

  • Investigate new, long-term sources for water in our state.
  • Explore additional conservation opportunities.
  • And identify future infrastructure needs so we don’t end up like sorry California.

I’ve also given the green light to the Arizona Department of Water Resources to use existing dollars to hire new staff that the water community has been requesting for years — experts who can take these plans and make them work.”


After approving the state’s first water plan in November, Governor John Hickenlooper (D) turned in his speech to implementation. He also spoke about developing a mine-drainage inventory in the wake of the Gold King mine spill of last August.

“We now have a comprehensive, statewide Water Plan — the result of unprecedented engagement with over 30,000 people around the state. It’s anchored in conservation and powered by innovative solutions to make our water go further, protect our natural environment, and ensure our agriculture and recreation industries keep flourishing.

Now it’s time to implement these solutions.

We will work with you to craft legislation that gives the Colorado Water Conservation Board greater flexibility in funding our most important water projects…

When we recognize a threat to our natural environment, we need to take action. Last summer’s Gold King Mine spill showed us what can happen when abandoned mines with environmental or safety issues are not properly remediated.

To reduce the risk of another release like Gold King, we are developing a statewide inventory of draining mines to prioritize for clean-up.

Tackling watershed contamination presents a challenge because of federal laws that prevent clean-up efforts that fail to meet anything less than their standards.

We ask that you support our Congressional Delegation’s efforts to allow “Good Samaritans” like state agencies, local governments, watershed groups and nonprofits to improve water quality without incurring liability for meeting all federal standards.

Upholding the highest public health and environmental standards, while promoting innovative energy development, is a cornerstone of our energy strategy.

At our altitude, we know better than anyone how important clean air is — and we need to protect it, along with our land and water. That means moving toward a cleaner, more sustainable energy future that is as reliable as what we have now.”


Governor Butch Otter (R) praised a water-sharing agreement signed by farmers who irrigate with groundwater from the Eastern Snake Plain Aquifer, a declining resource. Groundwater users agreed to cut withdrawals by more than 10 percent.

“I’m sure you will agree that sustainability is a significant goal and a key metric of success for much of our public policy, including our management of Idaho’s precious water resources.

Mr. Speaker, Senator Bair and Chairman Chase of the Idaho Water Resource Board, I want to personally thank you for your efforts in bringing two water-user groups together to finally settle delivery calls from the Eastern Snake Plain Aquifer.

This historic settlement between the Surface Water Coalition and groundwater users will help ensure that the aquifer is a healthy and reliable resource now and well into the future. In fact, I would encourage others who are at odds over apportioning scarce resources to use this agreement as a template for addressing their own conflicts.

Sustainability is a central value throughout Idaho, from the Treasure Valley to the Rathdrum Prairie and from Bear Lake to Hells Canyon. That’s why I’m proud to announce that the Water Resource Board has drafted a statewide sustainability policy. The Board will conduct public meetings throughout Idaho in the coming year to gather suggestions on incorporating its findings into our Comprehensive State Water Plan.

Preserving and protecting Idaho’s water is crucial to our continued economic growth and increased prosperity. Our renewable and “green” hydroelectric resources alone make Idaho the envy of other states in the West and a magnet for businesses that put a premium on environmental sustainability.”


Governor Terry Branstad (R) talked at length about water pollution. A lawsuit by Des Moines Water Works, the capital city’s utility, against three upstream farm counties over nitrate pollution has roiled the state. The perception is of a rural-urban divide: farms whose polluted runoff is lightly regulated versus city slickers who must pay to clean up the mess.

Branstad is supporting an alternative path. In the speech, he touted a water investment plan that he introduced last week alongside U.S. Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack. By extending a one-cent sales tax, the state could raise $US 4.7 billion over 32 years to fund projects to reduce water pollution. The state’s prosperity depends on it, he argued.

“This is a monumental investment in both education funding and water quality and does it without raising taxes.

From our rich soil to abundant water, Iowans are blessed with resources that are the envy of the world.

Over the years, positive steps have been taken to improve our state’s water quality–including our innovative nutrient reduction strategy.

However, it is clear we need a stable long-term source of funding to more significantly improve water quality from both point and non-point sources of pollution.

Unfortunately, the issue of protecting our state’s water quality risks tearing apart the fabric of Iowa, pitting Des Moines against rural Iowa.

Simply put, we must significantly accelerate our water quality efforts in order to avoid eroding our path to prosperity.”


More than two years ago, Governor Sam Brownback, returning home after two full terms in the U.S. Senate, called for Kansas officials to develop a 50-year water vision. The western third of the state relies on the declining Ogallala Aquifer to sustain its farm economy, while reservoirs in the eastern half are filling with sediment, cutting their capacity.

Brown used his State of the State speech to highlight some of the water successes during his tenure. But despite widespread acclaim for the locally driven conservative plans he championed, few districts have endorsed them.

“One of the biggest challenges we face in much of Kansas is the future of our water.

One of my passions as Governor is to prepare the state to be in a better position for the future. To do that we’ve got to prepare today and in some cases we have to sacrifice some now so our kids and grandkids have better options.

The work we have accomplished to preserve and extend water resources in Kansas in the last three years has been significant.

The first Local Enhanced Management Area has been in operation for three years in 99 square miles of Northwest Kansas. They have reduced their water use by roughly 20 percent, and maintained their net income. That should extend the useful life of the Ogallala in that area by 25 years.

That is solid progress but more needs to happen.

We are, right now, dredging John Redmond Reservoir, the first federal reservoir to be dredged in the nation.

Whether it’s dredging projects or reducing our demands on the Ogallala, it’s going to take time and some sacrifice.

We are going to continue implementing action items in the Long Term Vision for Kansas Water.

With most natural resources, we aren’t just taking them to use for today. We are borrowing them from the future.

Perhaps no one individual has done more to protect our water than the recipient of the first Water Legacy Award.

Wayne Bossert was the long-time director of Groundwater Management District #4. Now retired, he led the organization at the time it formed the state’s first LEMA in Thomas and Sheridan County, to help preserve the aquifer.”

New York

Governor Andrew Cuomo (D) proposed $US 250 million to help local communities rebuild water and sewer systems.

“It’s not fancy but it’s necessary,” he said.

West Virginia

Governor Earl Ray Tomblin (D) did not mention the state’s lawsuit to block the Obama administration’s Clean Water Rule, which would better define which waterways are regulated under the Clean Water Act. He also did not bring up the chemical spill that shut down drinking water for 300,000 people in the state capital in 2014.

Tomblin did speak about coal. He acknowledged that the industry is on the decline, and that West Virginia must adapt. Funding, he argued, should come in part from the federal government, which owes the state a debt for the energy that powered the nation.

“We cannot ignore the unprecedented shift that has taken place in our state and our nation. Forces beyond our control have severely damaged our coal industry, and even the most optimistic among us realize it is unlikely coal will ever reach production levels of the past.

For generations, our miners unearthed the coal used to produce the low-cost energy that fueled this country’s Industrial Revolution — one that remains unmatched anywhere in the world. This nation owes these West Virginians a debt of gratitude and we are ready to cash in on that substantial IOU.

This fall, we submitted an application to the National Disaster Resilience Competition seeking more than $140 million in funding from the United States Department of Housing and Urban Development. This competition has the potential to help six counties in our southern coalfields adjust, adapt and advance their communities.

If we’re successful, these federal funds will help us rebuild aging infrastructure, promote land use planning and hazard reduction efforts and stimulate housing and economic development in areas outside of the region’s floodplains.”

The post U.S. Governors Address Water appeared first on Circle of Blue WaterNews.

Source: Water News

Source: Water Industry News

The Stream, January 15: Water Ranked As Biggest Long-Term Global Risk

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The  Global Rundown

The Global Rundown

Water crises pose the biggest long-term risk to global society, according to a report from the World Economic Forum. A plan to build a dam on the Ganges River to augment water supplies in Bangladesh faces opposition from India. Water customers in Britain paid too much for services due to a mistake by a regulatory agency, and Ireland paid millions to help families improve water conservation during the first full year of water charges. A U.S. Environmental Protection Agency assessment of mining risks in Alaska’s Bristol Bay watershed was not conducted in a biased manner, the Office of Inspector General found. California’s prosperity depends on a multi-billion dollar project to divert water near the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta, Governor Jerry Brown said.

“If we don’t have the project, the Delta will fail, the water will not be available and California will suffer devastating economic consequences. This is not a ‘nice.’ It’s a fundamental necessity of California’s current and future prosperity.” –California Governor Jerry Brown, on a $15.5 billion plan to divert water before the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta and reroute it to water users in the state’s South. The plan has faced opposition from groups concerned about its effect on the environment. (The Sacramento Bee)

By the Numbers

By The Numbers

$1.7 billion Amount water companies in Britain made in “windfall gains” because the country’s regulatory agency, which sets price caps on water services, overestimated the companies’ costs. BBC

$102 million Cost of a grant program to help families in Ireland pay for water conservation measures. The grant program coincided with the introduction of water charges in October 2014; water had previously been free. The Irish Times


Science, Studies, And Reports

Water crises are the biggest long-term global risk, according to an annual report released by the World Economic Forum. The report, based on a survey of government and industry leaders who are members of the forum, ranked risks to global society based on their potential impact and the likelihood that they would occur within the next 10 years. Circle of Blue

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency did not act in a biased manner or violate any procedures during its assessment of the risks of mining in Alaska’s Bristol Bay watershed, according to a report by the independent Office of Inspector General. The agency used the watershed assessment to support its actions to restrict development of the proposed Pebble gold mine. EPA

On the Radar

On The Radar

Bangladesh hopes to build a dam on the Ganges River to direct more fresh water to its southwest region, where an encroaching sea threatens drinking water supplies. Neighboring India, however, has expressed concerns that the dam could cause flooding in its territory. Reuters

The post The Stream, January 15: Water Ranked As Biggest Long-Term Global Risk appeared first on Circle of Blue WaterNews.

Source: Water News

Source: Water Industry News

EPA: Lower Willamette cleanup plan due end of 2016, now is the time to get engaged, get informed and get ready (OR)

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Agency launches informational “Full Court Press” to help Portland-Metro communities prepare to comment on the proposed Portland Harbor cleanup plan Residents of the greater Portland area interested in learning more about the why, when and how, of the approaching Portland Harbor Superfund cleanup wil…
Source: EPA Science Water News

Source: Water Industry News

$32 Million in EPA funds help Northwest and Alaska tribes protect communities' health, water, air and natural resources (AK, ID, OR, WA)

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The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has awarded $32 million in funding for the Indian Environmental General Assistance Program (GAP) capacity building grants to tribes and tribal consortia in Alaska, Idaho, Oregon and Washington.The funding helps tribes develop environmental protection …
Source: EPA Science Water News

Source: Water Industry News