Interior Launches WaterSMART Initiative

Office of the Secretary
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Secretary Salazar: Okay I have a lot of my people who are here today, and uh, Larry it's always good to see you and everybody else.

I just want to say this you know, it's a tough day for us at Interior because of Sam Hamilton and his untimely death.

You know Sam was a hero in conservation for all of us, a visionary, someone who at the age of 15 started with the Youth Conservation Corps

and whose star career led him to get to the point where he became the Director of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

It's a stunning accomplishment for someone who at the age of 15, because of his love for the outdoors and for hunting and fishing

became the Director of the best wildlife agency on the entire planet.

and while we are grieving today at Interior and we miss him a lot

we know that his dream lives on and that his work continues to inspire us today as it will in the days and years ahead.

And his legacy, in terms of the stewardship of our land and our water and our wildlife will be something that will be here forever

because it's left an indelible mark already on this planet.

Today let me thank you all for coming and joining a part of our Interior team and the water and science section

joined today by Deputy Secretary David Hayes, Assistant Secretary for Water and Science Anne Castle, and the Commissioner for Bureau of Reclamation Mike Connor.

I am signing a Secretarial Order today that will be the foundation of a new water sustainability strategy for the United States.

The WaterSMART initiative we are launching will confront a simple reality: America's demands for water are quickly outgrowing our supplies of water.

Unless we chart a new course, we will be left with water shortages and water crises that could affect almost every community all across this country.

The federal government's existing water policies and programs simply are not built for a 21st century pressures that we face today.

We have population growth. Climate change. Rising energy demands. Environmental needs. Aging infrastructure. Risks to drinking water supply. Those are just some of the challenges that we face.

We in the United States can do better and we have been slow as a Department of the Interior to adjust to these realities in the past.

Instead, it is the local entities the state and local governments and water conservancy districts, that really have led the fight.

They have demonstrated the greatest foresight and leadership in recent years.

Stakeholders, for example, from the seven Colorado River Basin states have been working for a long time now to address an astounding reality which they face in that basin

which is a projected 20% decline for the water supply for the Colorado River Basin.

For those who are students of the Colorado River Compact and the negotiations that took place for those compacts,

we all know that there was an underestimation of over a million acre feet in how the water was allocated among the lower basin and the upper basin in that compact.

And so that has led to what essentially has been a century of conflict and fights in the Southwestern part of the United States of America.

When you compound that challenge with an additional 20% decline because of climate change and the precipitation patterns in the Colorado River Basin

we're looking at water wars that will make the past water wars look simple in the Southwest.

In the Klamath River Basin where I participated in a announcement with Governor Scharzenegger and Governor Kulongonski just last week,

there was a water war that was very intense and waged there for a number of years and yet there today,

the parties the tribes, the water users, the irrigators, the states, enviromentalists, all came together to sign a very historic agreement and I was proud to be a part of that last week.

In cities across the Southwest, municipal water authorities are their using ingenuity to stretch scarce water supplies further than anyone could ever imagine.

from Los Angeles to Aurora Colorado to Arvada I have seen what they are doing.

And I believe it's time for our agency here, the United States Bureau of Reclamation and the United States Geological Survey and the rest of our agencies here in Interior

to join that fight and to sure we are preparing ourselves for the future in terms of water.

For those of us from the West we have all recognized for a long time that water truly is the lifeblood of our communities.

And unless we look forward to addressing the challenges that we face in this century we are going to shorten our communities and put communities and people very much at risk.

and so thats why we are signing this executive order today on WaterSmart

and what I'm going to do is turn it over to Anne Castle and she is going to give us a quick presentation on some of the water realities that we are facing here in the United States. So, Anne Castle.

Assistant Secretary Anne Castle: Thank you, Mr. Secretary.

As the Secretary said, today the Department of the Interior is launching a new sustainable water strategy known as WaterSMART, and that stands for Sustain and Manage America's Resources for Tomorrow.

And I'm going to talk about why we need that strategy and little more in depth.

The primary reason is because our overall water and supply demand equation is out of balance. The water policies that we have in place today around the country simply won't keep up with the pressures of tomorrow.

To see this, let's start looking at our water footprint around the world.

And a “water footprint” is simply the amount of water people consume per capita, not just for drinking but for the water that goes into the goods and services that people use.

As you can see from this globe, water footprints vary considerably around the world.

The countries that are shown in blue on this map represent areas where the water footprint is less than the global average.

And the countries shown in red are areas where they're using more per capita than the global average.

You saw China in a very deep blue. And now you see see the United States in the darkest red.

We consume in America roughly three times per capita what the Chinese do.

Consumption is one side of the water balance equation – the demand side and supply is the other. part

And we can't make the classic comparisons of water supply and demand without considering the dynamic part of the equation, the part that's changing,

due to population growth or impacts on water supplies from climate change, or depletion of groundwater resources

or expected increases in demand like for things like domestic energy production.

The globe here shows areas that have seen the greatest increases in temperature over the past two decades due to climate change.

And those changes in temperature are having a significant impact on our water supplies around the world and in the U.S.

We are seeing more frequent and more severe droughts. This graphic is a snapshot of droughts across America in June of 2008.

And we're used to seeing drought in places like the West or the Southwestern U.S. But we're not as accustomed to seeing it in places like the Southeast. But that's exactly what was happening in the summer of '08.

We're looking at climate change impacts on the timing of stream flows and we track this carefully through stream gage stations and snowpack measuring stations.

Using that base information, the USGS has done a study on just the state of Colorado that confirms that higher winter temperatures are having significant impact on the timing of snowmelt and peak runoff.

The report , that USGS is going to release very soon, tells us that snowmelt and peak streamflows are occurring 2 to 3 weeks earlier in the state of Colorado than they did just 30 years ago.

And that kind of shift has very significant implications for the storage of water supplies and for the reliable base flow that water managers are used to counting on.

In addition to climate change, population growth is affecting the water balance equation.

In just the 10 years between 1990 and 2000, the U.S. population grew by more than 30 million people.

This slide shows the areas of the country that increased in population over that 10 year period.

Those areas are shown in green and the red areas represent counties that lost population.

The next slide shows the predictions of the Census Bureau about changes in population to occur in the next 10 years.

And again, green showing areas of increase, red showing areas of anticipated loss.

As our population grows, not only do we need more water for drinking, but we also create more energy demand, and energy in turn needs water for its production.

You need more water for heat exchange for power plants, you need more water for cooling purposes, and other energy-related uses.

According to a recently published USGS study on water use across the country,

the withdrawal of water for thermoelectric-power production represents almost half of all the water use in the United States.

And irrigation is the second largest use, but the mix of uses varies greatly in different parts of the country.

If we use this interactive map we can look at regional variations in the type of use.

By drawing a line around a particular area of the country, the pie chart in the upper right will show us what the mix of use is for that particular area.

And by looking at the Western U.S. from the Rocky Mountains to the west coast, we see that the primary use of water is for irrigation.

That's what's shown in beige in the pie chart. So that's what's going on in the Western part of the country.

But contrast that by looking at the mix of uses in the eastern seaboard. If we draw a line around that part of the country and look at the water usage there we'll get a very different picture.

We see in the pie chart for that part of the country in blue and green the use of water for different types of power production.

So the blue and green is the total water withdrawls for power purposes and that's three-quarters of the total amount of water use along the east coast.

So again, very different uses or mixes of uses in different parts of the country.

That kind of information is critical for understanding, not just regional differences in the kinds of water use,

but also it allows us to figure out where we have the greatest potential to increase water efficiencies, and where we should be focusing our efforts to create new technology for water saving.

We're also able to look very specifically at the entire water supply and demand equation at different areas around the country.

This shows different river basins and the supply and demand that existed as of 1984.

This data from 25 years ago because that's the last time we had a comprehensive national water census in America.

That's one of the things that the WaterSMART program is going to change.

But this slide shows that in the Southwest, even back in 1984, the available surface water supply was less than the demand.

And you can imagine how that equation has changed there and in other parts of the country with population growth and the impact of climate change and more frequent droughts.

This kind of analysis, that you're seeing here, is made possible through the USGS stream gauge network.

There are 7500 stream gages around the country that are shown in bubbles on this map. And those gauges provide real time information about surface water flows.

They're posted on the web for anybody who wants to access it.

That kind of backbone network gives us the ability to see trends and to measure differences in flows and supplies based on climate change and other factors.

Those are measuring surface water but surface water is only part of the water imbalance that we need to worry about.

Concerns are also mounting about the future availability of ground water. We get about half of all our drinking water from ground water sources.

And underground water is also essential to the vitality of agriculture and industry, and it supports the health of rivers, and wetlands, and estuaries.

The aquifers that you see here account for 94% of all ground water withdrawals in America.

But large-scale development of these ground-water resources has greatly decreased the overall amount available for the future.

This graphic shows in each red dot areas where aquifer levels have dropped more than 40 feet over the past 20 years.

We're going to zoom in now on just the Ogalalla Aquifer, which is a massive ground water resource in High Plains, stretches from North Dakota to Texas.

This map shows the aquifer's decline, Ogalalla's decline, since the 1990's. With the areas in red representing places where we've lost more than 150 feet of aquifer level just in the past 20 years

So In those areas, we're obviously taking more ground water out than natural processes are able to replace.

So: how do we begin to tackle this out-of-balance water supply and demand equation, and what's the role of the Interior Department?

Interior has a direct interest in water supply issues because through the Bureau of Reclamation, we are the largest wholesaler of water in the country.

We supply drinking water to more than 31 million people, and one out of five Western farmers through these Bureau of Reclamation facilities across the West. That's water for 10 million acres of farmland.

In addition to those water projects, Interior's role in water stretches all the way across the country,

from national parks and wildlife refuges and public lands that we manage, to the drinking water supplies that we bring to Native American Communities.

We're already at work in a variety of ways in promoting water sustainability.

Through the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, we have invested $1 billion in America's water infrastructure.

As just one example of a recovery act investment, we are bringing drinking water to this native community in Gallup, New Mexico, where currently residents have to have their drinking water trucked in.

And through the Bureau of Reclamation's cost-share grants for water efficiency and recycling, we're helping local communities get better at conserving and re-using water.

Through the USGS, we're studying availability and use of water in various areas across the country. We started with the Great Lakes, but will be expanding to other areas very soon.

We're looking at ground water resources.

In California's Central Valley, we're looking at the impacts of ground water pumping, and, again, we're seeing significant declines in aquifer levels.

But that's the kind of information that is needed to help policy makers craft a response to California's water crisis.

All these efforts have delivered some great results. But it's time to move beyond piecemeal efforts. We have to expand these programs and create new ones.

And we have to create a holistic national water sustainability strategy.

We need to move beyond traditional water conservation, and re-balance that water supply and demand equation,
And we need a national commitment in order to make that happen.

That's exactly what the WaterSMART and the Order that the Secretary is about to sign are designed to do.

Mr. Secretary?

Secretary Salazar: Thank you very much Anne.

Great Presentation.


Thank you Anne for doing that and let me just say if you want to put this in a context where I think everybody can understand it,

that our goal here is to be able to move forward so that we will be able to increase available water supply for agriculture, municipal, industrial and environmental uses

in the Western United States by 350,000 acre-feet of water by 2012.

If you can imagines that, 350,000 acres one foot deep in water. That is a very significant amount of water supply that we will see as a result of this order that we're signing.

We have asked through the President's budget, money for the WaterSMART program for the next year budget.

And through that effort we hope to be able to move forward with the sustainability efforts in the department to allow us to integrate

and coordinate not only our efforts in the department but across other water users

We will establish a clearinghouse here in the Department of Interior with respect to water supply and we will coordinate with our energy and climate change task force here in the department.

We'll also focus on reducing the footprint that we have here at DOI with respect to our own water use.

So with that I'm going to sign the order and then if David, Anne and Mike will join me we'll take whatever questions there might be.

[ Inaudable- Secretary chats with audience ]

Last edited 4/25/2016