NATIONAL WATER SUPPLY ALLIANCE
The following four Policy Principles serve as the foundation for NWSA’s national voice on water supply issues. These overarching, high-level principles will guide NWSA in engaging on relevant issues and developing positions in support of NWSA’s mission.
1. Federalism and state primacy are the bedrock of water resources policy and management.
The state-federal relationship should embrace federalism, as both state and federal governments are water resource policy partners. Congressional authority provided to the Corps of Engineers to allocate water storage within its facilities cannot impinge on state primacy as it relates to water allocation, conservation, development, control, use, protection, and management.
As detailed in NWSA Policy Statement #1, the Corps of Engineers must defer to state-granted water rights.
As detailed in NWSA Policy Statement #2, the Corps of Engineers' role in water supply is limited to providing storage space and not water itself.
2. Water supply is an essential national priority that should be elevated in federal public policy discussions and must be given greater attention by the Corps of Engineers.
NWSA strongly urges that water supply be given an equal priority in the national discussion on infrastructure. Water supply has historically been given less prominence than other infrastructure matters. NWSA encourages a heightened public focus on the challenges of meeting the water supply needs of the nation’s growing population.
Specifically, NWSA seeks to elevate the attention and focus devoted to water supply by the Corps of Engineers. One hundred and thirty-six reservoirs in the Corps of Engineers portfolio provide almost 10 million acre-feet of storage for municipal and industrial water supply. These federal water projects are covered by 350 agreements, with the investment in municipal and industrial water supply storage valued at $6.1 billion in 2016 dollars.[i] The Corps of Engineers extrapolates that the equivalent household population served by municipal and industrial water supply storage in Corps reservoirs is over 100 million people.
The above statistics do not account for Corps of Engineers reservoirs that do not currently include water supply storage. All Corps reservoirs should be eligible for consideration for agreements to increase or add municipal and industrial water supply storage, as contemplated in the Water Supply Act of 1958. The Corps of Engineers also regulates water flow on major river systems, often across multi-state jurisdictions. This level of control presents challenges to water providers and communities in managing water supplies.
3. Open and transparent processes and decision making, including consultation with non-federal partners, will provide for a more efficient, effective, and timely approach to water supply development and management.
NWSA supports an open and transparent process in federal water resources decision-making. Such a process can be strengthened through regular consultation with non-federal partners, many of whom are water infrastructure project co-managers. Currently, the Corps of Engineers treats its non-federal partners as simply stakeholders rather than equal partners and, in some cases, regulators. In this partnership, the Corps must recognize its role as providing water storage, the role of states in allocating water, and the role of state, regional, and local water providers in managing water supply.
Regional, state, and local water managers are partners with the Corps of Engineers and each have a role in water resource development and management. Strengthening this partnership through transparent and collaborative Corps policies and processes will increase project delivery efficiency and enhance the ability to respond to growing needs and competing demands.
4. Fair and reasonable implementation of project regulation and delivery will improve the nation’s response to emerging and changing water needs.
NWSA advocates for Corps of Engineers processes that are transparent, efficient, and predictable. In many instances, the Corps of Engineers interprets its role and jurisdiction in ways that may differ from what was intended by the pertinent Congressional authorization or are in direct conflict with state laws involving water rights. The Corps of Engineers’ rules of engagement on regulations, studies, and operations decisions are typically focused on processes rather than outcomes, leading to burdensome processes that increase compliance costs and time. A diligent but more efficient and collaborative focus on actions will result in stronger and more timely decisions. In addition, increasing accountability for timely actions will result in processes that provide greater certainty in decision-making. Water supply providers are faced with increasingly difficult investment and development decisions to address critical needs. The nation’s water providers must be able to rely on a transparent, efficient, and predictable approach for making and implementing decisions, such as reallocations, with reasonable certainty and timeliness. Availability of storage for water supply is paramount in determining water supply projections for industrial and municipal users and is the foundation for the timing of funding and constructing large and costly capital projects. As such, this makes the timeliness, transparency, and predictability of storage reallocation determinations by the Corps vital.
[i] U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Institute for Water Resources, “FY 2016 Municipal, Industrial and Irrigation Water Supply Database Report”, 2017-R-02, June 2017.