Western Governors address water management and quality challenges

The Western Governors Association adopted two resolutions emphasizing state primacy in water management and the need for federal support in water infrastructure and quality initiatives.
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June 14, 2024 — At the 2024 Annual Meeting in Olympic Valley, California, the Western Governors Association (WGA)Opens in a new tab. formally adopted two crucial water-related policy resolutions to address the pressing challenges of water management and quality in the Western United States:

Here are some plain language highlights of WGA’s resolutions that were adopted this week:

State Primacy in Water Management.

Background.

Water is an essential resource for communities, industries, agriculture, and habitats in the West, where scarcity makes its management particularly critical. States hold primary responsibility for allocating and managing water resources, as they are best equipped to address the unique aspects of Western water law and hydrology. Anticipating future water demands, states emphasize the need for continued stewardship and investment in water infrastructure to support long-term economic growth and environmental sustainability.

Governors’ Policy Statement.

  • State Authority: States have the preeminent authority to develop, use, control, and distribute water resources within their boundaries per international treaties, interstate agreements, and judicial decrees.
  • Federal Recognition: The federal government should recognize and support state primacy in water management. Federal laws, such as the Clean Water Act (CWA) and the Safe Drinking Water Act (SDWA), should not undermine state authority.
  • Infrastructure Investment: States require federal support to invest in new and aging water infrastructure, which is essential for public health, safety, economic prosperity, and environmental protection.
  • Collaboration: States, tribes, and federal agencies should work together to avoid Endangered Species Act (ESA) listings and promote species conservation through state laws and existing tools.

Water Quality in the West.

Background

Clean water is vital for strong economies, healthy ecosystems, and quality of life. Water scarcity necessitates flexible management strategies in the West to balance social, environmental, and economic needs. With their deep understanding of local conditions, states are best positioned to manage and protect water resources, as codified by the CWA, which recognizes state authorities as co-regulators.

Governors’ Policy Statement

  • State Authority and CWA Implementation: States should retain jurisdiction over water resource allocation and have the flexibility to adopt water quality standards tailored to local conditions. The EPA should engage states in meaningful consultation when developing regulations.
  • Permitting and Nonpoint Source Pollution: Federal permitting processes should respect state authority, and solutions for nonpoint source pollution should be state-driven and supported by federal collaboration.
  • Nutrient Pollution and Reauthorization: States need flexibility to address nutrient pollution and require additional resources for wastewater treatment infrastructure. Reauthorization of the CWA should encourage wastewater reuse and efficient water management.
  • Stormwater Pollution and Tribal Coordination: Management of stormwater discharges should consider regional differences, and state-tribal cooperation is essential for effective CWA implementation.

Infrastructure and Investment.

  • Federal Support and Innovative Solutions.  Western Governors advocate for adequate federal support for water infrastructure, including the Bureau of Reclamation’s WaterSMART Program and USDA’s water management programs. Additional investment tools, such as public-private partnerships and loan guarantees, should be considered to reduce financing costs and promote sustainable infrastructure development.
  • Hydropower and Planning.  Optimizing federally owned or licensed hydropower resources and streamlining infrastructure planning and permitting processes are essential for balancing economic development with environmental considerations. States should be involved in the planning stages to ensure timely decision-making and regional adaptability.

Deborah

Since 1995, Deborah has owned and operated LegalTech LLC with a focus on water rights. Before moving to Arizona in 1986, she worked as a quality control analyst for Honeywell and in commercial real estate, both in Texas. She learned about Arizona's water rights from the late and great attorney Michael Brophy of Ryley, Carlock & Applewhite. Her side interests are writing (and reading), Wordpress programming and much more.

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