For your New Year's reading pleasure - another timely report from the Congressional Research Service: Western Water and Drought: Legislative Analysis of H.R. 2898 and S. 1894, by Pervaze A. Sheikh, Betsy A. Cody, Charles V. Stern, Nicole T. Carter, Linda Luther, and Claudia Copeland.
This is an impressive report; lots of material on the California drought.
Click on the graphics (twice, if need be) to enlarge them.
Several western states are experiencing extreme or exceptional drought conditions. The persistence and intensity of the drought, which began in 2011 in some areas, has received considerable attention from Congress. To date, federal legislative proposals have focused primarily on the management of federal water projects, support for drought-related programs, and needs of fish and wildlife for water. A broad policy question is how Congress might address western drought, drought in any part of the United States, and gaps in water supply and demand.
Several bills have been introduced in the 114th Congress that would address issues associated with drought. They include S. 176, S. 1837, S. 1894, H.R. 2898, H.R. 2983, and H.R. 3045, among others. Of the bills considered to date, H.R. 2898, the Western Water and American Food Security Act, and S. 1894, the California Emergency Drought Relief Act of 2015, have received the most congressional and public attention. On July 17, 2015, H.R. 2898 passed the House, and on October 8, 2015, both H.R. 2898 and S. 1894 were the focus of a Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee hearing. There are reports that a draft bill addressing differences between H.R. 2898 and S. 1894 is being negotiated; however no new bills have been introduced.
Although H.R. 2898 and S. 1894 address some common issue areas and include some similar provisions, the bills’ approaches often differ in important ways. Both bills focus on water projects and management during drought, and do not attempt to address the broad suite of drought impacts and policies (e.g., effects on wildfire and agricultural assistance programs).
To date, the focus on both bills has centered primarily on provisions related to the management and operations of the federal Central Valley Project (CVP) and the State Water Project (SWP) in California; however, S. 1894 would authorize several programs and activities that would aim to benefit water users and increase water supplies, including water recycling and desalination. H.R. 2898’s supporters contend that the bill would, among other things, improve the flexibility and responsiveness of CVP and SWP operations during the current drought in California and beyond. Supporters also contend that activities authorized under H.R. 2898 could increase water supplies to users facing curtailed allocations and improve the science and data collection activities for identifying the effects of operations on listed species. Broadly speaking, supporters of both H.R. 2898 and S. 1894 contend that the legislation would allow for maximum available water supplies in a manner that is consistent with existing laws and regulations; however, S. 1894 would provide fewer directives for project operations. Others believe the bills could harm listed species under the Endangered Species Act (ESA; P.L. 93-205).
H.R. 2898 and S. 1894 have generated both support and opposition from stakeholders and have raised questions about their potential implementation. The bills also raise a number of questions for Congress to consider when addressing drought, including how to reconcile environmental protections with demand for more water and increased pumping from the Sacramento and San Joaquin Rivers Delta to support CVP and SWP water contractors. Related questions include whether the Administration is already maximizing water supplies at federally operated water projects and whether water project management and operations pursuant to the ESA and other laws should be adjusted to better account for water resources challenges. The bills also raise other issues, including what principles and approaches should guide federal involvement in water resources management and how much (if any) support the federal government should provide for drought preparedness and relief efforts. Related topics may include the preferred mix of federal and state leadership in addressing drought; the proper balance of federal investment in surface water storage and in new “alternative” water supplies (e.g., water recycling and reuse, desalination); and the geographic scope of drought-related assistance, authorities, and programs.
"Put away your surplus during years of great plenty so you will be ready for the lean years which are sure to follow." - Joseph to Pharaoh (Book of Genesis)