IB10019 - Western Water Resource Issues
8-Mar-2006; Betsy A. Cody & Pervaze A. Sheikh; 19 p.
Update: July 24, 2006
MOST RECENT DEVELOPMENTS:
Recent news reports of food chain and fisheries declines in the Sacramento and San Joaquin Rivers confluence with San Francisco Bay (Bay-Delta), combined with fiscal issues at both the state and federal levels, have raised questions about the implementation and viability of the CALFED Program — a federal and state effort to coordinate water management and ecosystem restoration activities within and around the Bay-Delta. On February 27, 2006, an oversight field hearing on the Bay-Delta fisheries was held by the House Resources Committee to learn about scientific data on the fisheries, potential areas of concern, and plans for restoring the fisheries. The Administration’s FY2007 request for the Bureau of Reclamation’s CALFED program account is $38.6 million. The FY2007 request also contains a budget crosscut report as required by P.L. 108-361. This crosscut reports federal funding for programs directly and indirectly related to CALFED objectives. The final appropriation for the CALFED program for FY2006 (P.L. 109-103) is $37 million, nearly a third of which is for storage studies and planning.
Following the events of Hurricane Katrina, concern has heightened over the vulnerability of Bay-Delta levees and their capability to withstand earthquakes or flooding. The Administration’s FY2007 request contains no funds specifically for Bay-Delta levees.
On October 18, the U.S. 9th Circuit Court of Appeals reversed a decision of a lower court, which had denied a challenge to the Bureau of Reclamation’s (Bureau)10-year operation plan for the Klamath Project. The 9th Circuit Court concluded the reasonable and prudent alternative selected in the Biological Opinion on the Bureau of Reclamation’s 10- year operation plan was “arbitrary and capricious” because the National Marine Fisheries Service failed to analyze in eight of ten years the effects of project operations on coho salmon, a species that has a three-year life cycle. It is not yet clear what effect the decision will have on Klamath project operations in 2006.
Abstract: For more than a century, the federal government has constructed water resource projects for a variety of purposes, including flood control, navigation, power generation, and irrigation. While most municipal and industrial water supplies have been built by non-federal entities, most of the large, federal water supply projects in the West, including Hoover and Grand Coulee dams, were constructed by the Bureau of Reclamation (Department of the Interior) to provide water for irrigation.
Growing populations and changing values have increased demands on water supplies and river systems, resulting in water use and management conflicts throughout the country, particularly in the West, where the population is expected to increase 30% in the next 20-25 years. In many western states, agricultural needs are often in direct conflict with urban needs, as well as with water demand for threatened and endangered species, recreation, and scenic enjoyment.
Debate over western water resources revolves around the issue of how best to plan for and manage the use of this renewable, yet sometimes scarce and increasingly sought after, resource. Some observers advocate enhancing water supplies, for example, by building new storage or diversion projects, expanding old ones, or funding water reclamation and reuse facilities. Others emphasize the need to manage existing supplies more efficiently — through conservation, revision of policies that encourage inefficient use of water, and establishment of market mechanisms to allocate water.
The 109th Congress is considering a number of bills on western water issues, including title transfer, water recycling, and rural water supply legislation and may also revisit drought legislation introduced in the 108th Congress. Oversight of CALFED — a joint federal and state program to restore fish and wildlife habitat and address California water supply/quality issues — and Klamath River Basin issues is also likely.
The 109th Congress may also consider Indian water rights settlement legislation; however, Indian settlement bills are not tracked in this issue brief.