Gordon Bill Would Coordinate Water R&D

On March 4, the U.S. House of Representatives' Committee on Science and Technology examined the need for a coordinated federal approach to water research and development, in an effort to help communities that are facing, or that will be facing, water shortages.

Members also received testimony on H.R. 1145, The National Water Research and Development Initiative Act and on opportunities for the federal government to better coordinate and support research and technological innovation.

"Constraints on water supplies are taking a toll on society, our economy, and the environment," said Chair Bart Gordon (D-Tenn.). "Water is too valuable a resource for us to manage in a crisis-by-crisis fashion."

Witnesses from academia, industry, and the environmental sectors discussed their views on the need for federal research and development in water supply, conservation, and management. Committee members and witnesses discussed the challenges of managing water supplies to meet the nation's needs in the face of population growth, increased energy demands, and changing weather patterns caused by climate change.

Gordon reintroduced The National Water Research and Development Initiative Act last month. The bill would coordinate national research and development efforts on water and, in the face of predicted droughts, work to ensure adequate water supplies for generations to come.

The legislation builds on previous efforts to coordinate federal research on water resources by establishing an interagency committee -- the Subcommittee on Water Availability and Quality (SWAQ) of the National Science and Technology Council. H.R. 1145 codifies this subcommittee and provides it explicit congressional authorization.

In addition, the bill incorporates recommendations from the 2004 report by the National Academies of Science, "Confronting the Nation's Water Problems: The Role of Federal Research." The report indicated that SWAQ is an effective forum for agencies to share information about their efforts on water, and it identified several issues to be addressed to make SWAQ an effective coordinating body.

"We need to ensure that federal dollars are utilized in a cost-effective manner," said Gordon. "We know that the U.S. is not getting its money's worth on water resources research because of a lack of coordination. This bill is a step towards rectifying that."