The Government Accountability Office (GAO) recently announced that it will do a ten year update on its July 2003 report, States’ Views of How Federal Agencies Could Help Them Meet the Challenges of Expected Shortages.
The executive summary of the 2003 report:
Here is more information on the 2003 report from the WWW site (where you can download the entire document; the map below is from the report and the executive summary):
The widespread drought conditions of 2002 focused attention on a critical national challenge: ensuring a sufficient freshwater supply to sustain quality of life and economic growth. States have primary responsibility for managing the allocation and use of water resources, but multiple federal agencies also play a role. For example, Interior's Bureau of Reclamation operates numerous water storage facilities, and the U.S. Geological Survey collects important surface and ground-water information. GAO was asked to determine the current conditions and future trends for U.S. water availability and use, the likelihood of shortages and their potential consequences, and states' views on how federal activities could better support state water management efforts to meet future demands. For this review, GAO conducted a web-based survey of water managers in the 50 states and received responses from 47 states; California, Michigan, and New Mexico did not participate.
National water availability and use has not been comprehensively assessed
in 25 years, but current trends indicate that demands on the nation's supplies are growing. In particular, the nation's capacity for storing surface-water is limited and ground-water is being depleted. At the same time, growing population and pressures to keep water instream for fisheries and the environment place new demands on the freshwater supply. The potential effects of climate change also create uncertainty about future water availability and use. State water managers expect freshwater shortages in the near future, and the consequences may be severe. Even under normal conditions, water managers in 36 states anticipate shortages in localities, regions, or statewide in the next 10 years. Drought conditions will exacerbate shortage impacts. When water shortages occur, economic impacts to sectors such as agriculture can be in the billions of dollars. Water shortages also harm the environment. For example, diminished flows reduced the Florida Everglades to half its original size. Finally, water shortages cause social discord when users compete for limited supplies. State water managers ranked federal actions that could best help states meet their water resource needs. They preferred: (1) financial assistance to increase storage and distribution capacity; (2) water data from more locations; (3) more flexibility in complying with or administering federal environmental laws; (4) better coordinated federal participation in water-management agreements; and (5) more consultation with states on federal or tribal use of water rights. Federal officials identified agency activities that support state preferences. While not making recommendations, GAO encourages federal officials to review the results of our state survey and consider opportunities to better support state water management efforts. We provided copies of this report to the seven departments and agencies discussed within. They concurred with our findings and provided technical clarifications, which we incorporated as appropriate.
Lisa Vojta of GAO kindly provided information about the update along with the current objectives:
1) How have the perspectives of states and other stakeholders changed over the past decade with regard to freshwater availability and use, and what is known about the drivers and effects of such change?
2) What is the anticipated water availability and use over the next 10 years?
3) How does the federal government support state water management efforts, and what could the federal government do to enhance its support?
She also mentioned that water managers from all 50 states responded to a survey.
The update was requested by the House Committee on Natural Resources.
I will be participating in a concall interview with Lisa and others to provide AWRA's input. Looking forward to the call and the update.
"While states have principal authority for water management, federal activities and laws affect or influence virtually every water management activity undertaken by states. With limited supplies and growing demands, state water managers face the challenge of future water shortages and their potentially severe consequences. Although the state managers value the many contributions of federal agencies to their efforts to ensure adequate water supplies, they also indicate that federal activities could better support their efforts in a number of areas. In some of these areas—such as providing funding for more state storage and distribution capacity or more flexibility in how states comply with federal environmental laws—federal agencies are limited in what they can do. However, in other areas—such as seeking increased state input to federal facility operations or enhancing coordination with states—more supportive federal actions may not necessarily involve new authority or significant expenditures. Slight shifts of federal priorities or renewed emphasis on matters that impact state efforts might be sufficient to help states better manage their water resources." - from the conclusions of the 2003 GAO report, p. 88.