House Passes Sea Grant Act; New Bill Looks at Water Supply

The U.S. House of Representatives passed H.R. 5618, National Sea Grant College Program Amendments Act of 2008, according to a Sept. 30 press release from Rep. Bart Gordon's office.

This legislation will increase funding levels and interaction between the National Sea Grant Office and state programs and will improve programmatic performance reviews. It was based on recommendations emerging from the National Academy of Sciences 2006 review of the Sea Grant program.

The Sea Grant program is a partnership between state and federal government to promote the understanding, conservation, and management of our ocean, coastal, and Great Lakes resources.

"This program has been very effective in training our nation's future scientists and resource managers, generating information to support sound resource management, and delivering applied research results to Americans whose livelihoods depend on the coastal areas and Great Lakes," said Committee on Science and Technology Chair Gordon (D-TN).

The National Sea Grant College Program was last reauthorized in 2002. Growth of the National Sea Grant College Program has been stunted during the last few years. The flat funding level has, over time, impacted the services delivered on a daily basis to coastal communities. With the costs of research and education rising, programs have been forced to reduce staff and a number of education and outreach activities.

Earlier in September, Gordon introduced H.R. 6997, a bill to create a national Water Initiative. According to Gordon's office, the initiative will coordinate and support federal water research, education, and technology transfer activities to address changes in water use, supply, and demand in the United States. It includes support to increase water supply through greater efficiency and conservation.

"Sound water management is essential if we are to meet the water needs of municipalities, industry, agriculture, recreation, and power," said Gordon. "A new commitment is necessary to ensure that the United States can meet the water challenges over the next twenty years and onward."

In the United States, more than 50,000 water utilities withdraw approximately 40 billion gallons of water per day from the nation's resources to supply water for domestic consumption, industry, and other uses. When severe water shortages occur, the economic effect can be substantial. According to a 2000 report from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, eight water shortages from drought or heat waves each resulted in $1 billion or more in monetary losses over the past 20 years. Thirty-nine states are expected to experience droughts in the next five years.

"If we are to avoid water crises in the future, we need an effective research and development effort that provides tools and information to manage our water resources effectively," said Gordon. "The National Academies have reported that the United States is not getting its money's worth on water resources research because of a lack of coordination. During tough budgetary times, we need to ensure that taxpayer money is getting the best return on investment."

The Committee recently held a hearing to get stakeholders' opinions on draft version of this legislation. The House of Representatives also recently passed two pieces of water legislation that originated in the Committee on Science and Technology: H.R. 3957, The Water Use Efficiency and Conservation Research Act, and H.R. 2339, The Produced Water Utilization Act.

For more information, visit http://www.science.house.gov/default.aspx.

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