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The Executive Order That Could Save U.S. Water Supplies

Climate

Environmental Working Group

A detailed executive order making water a major national priority and moving the nation to a clean energy future is being submitted to the White House today for President Obama's consideration.

Photo courtesy of Shutterstock

As composed by the Committee for an American Clean Energy Agenda (ACEA), the draft executive order titled, Identification of Critical Water Resources and Mitigation of Water Use Competition in Vulnerable Watersheds, would require the completion of a long-overdue national water census, the first “U.S. Water Budget” and a plan for a shift by 2030 from fossil fuel and nuclear power to clean energy, increased energy efficiency, and enhanced energy storage technologies within key watersheds identified by the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS).

The ACEA is comprised of 120 citizen organizations with nearly 2 million members in 33 states and Washington DC. Organized by the nonprofit Civil Society Institute and the Environmental Working Group (EWG), it is committed to promoting new, grassroots-driven politics to bring about a renewable energy future that goes beyond “business as usual.” ACEA promotes the use of taxpayer dollars to support an energy system that prevents degradation of the environment, protects public health, preserves access to clean water, sustains the electric grid and combats global climate change, all while laying the basis for an adequate standard of living for today’s populations and future generations.

“Without this vital information and deliberate planning process, federal policy makers are flying blind when it comes to developing an energy policy reliant on the availability of fresh water. America should have an energy policy where people matter and that means protecting our access to clean and safe water," said Pam Solo, president and founder of the Civil Society Institute. "The draft executive order outlines a process for getting that important job done now while there is still time to do so. The President’s climate initiatives are necessary but insufficient. Without this understanding of our most vital resource and energy production’s impact on water quality and availability, we pursue business as usual recklessly.”

“When it comes to protecting water and making ‘water smart’ energy choices, we already are far behind where we need to be as a nation. The Department of Energy has delayed for years the release of the 'Water Nexus' roadmap," said Heather White, executive director of the EWG. We are now at the point where energy production increasingly threatens water quality across the country, as well as quantity in places where water is scarce. We need to start planning today if we want to avoid disaster in the years to come.”

In the U.S. Energy Policy Act of 2005, Congress required the Secretary of Energy to submit a report assessing the state of water supply and demand and recommending future actions. The Department of Energy split the report into two parts: a general review of the connections between water and energy in the U.S. and recommendations to offer Congress guidance in policy making. The general review portion was submitted to Congress in 2007. However, the recommendations part, called the “roadmap” has still not been released, though it was prepared some time ago. 

Released in Janurary, an ACEA national opinion survey found that 92 percent of Americans think “U.S. energy planning and decision making” should be based on “a comprehensive understanding of what our national water resources are.” The national water roadmap attracts the support of 92 percent of Republicans, 89 percent of Independents and 94 percent of Democrats.

On May 24, leaders of the ACEA praised Rep. Eddie Bernice Johnson (D-TX) and 22 of her House colleagues for publicly urging U.S. Energy Secretary Ernest Moniz to release the long-overdue “roadmap” of how to manage the development of U.S. energy resources without harming the quality and quantity of water supplies.

The map shows regions in the West where water supply conflicts are likely to occur by 2025 based on a combination of factors including population trends and potential endangered species’ needs for water. The red zones are where the conflicts are most likely to occur. This analysis does not factor in the effects of climate change, which is expected to exacerbate many of these already-identified issues. Source: U.S. Bureau of Reclamation.

In its most recent report to Congress, the USGS identified three critical watersheds as the subjects of their initial studies. These include the Apalachicola-Chattahoochee-Flint (ACF) River Basin, the Delaware River Basin and the Colorado River Basin that encompass many smaller, impaired bodies of water. USGS chose these watersheds due to their importance to the country and because they represent “watersheds with potential water-use conflicts.” USGS also found in its report to Congress that thermoelectric power and irrigation are the largest users of water in the nation.

Visit EcoWatch’s WATER page for more related news on this topic.

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