Department Of Interior

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Office of the Secretary
Contact: Frank Quimby
For Imediate Release: May 2, 2003

Water 2025: Preventing Crises and Conflict in the West

Interior Proposal Would Concentrate Federal
Resources to Support Community Solutions

(WASHINGTON)-Chronic water supply problems in the West are one of the greatest challenges facing the nation in the coming decades, Secretary Norton said today in announcing her proposal to help communities predicted to experience conflicts over water during the next 25 years even in the absence of drought.

The proposal--Water 2025: Preventing Crises and Conflict in the West --calls for concentrating existing federal financial and technical resources in key western watersheds and in critical research and development, such as water conservation and desalinization, that will help to predict, prevent, and alleviate water supply conflicts. The President's FY 2004 budget calls for an initial investment of $11 million for such efforts.

"Crisis management is not an effective solution for addressing long-term, systematic water supply problems," said Norton, noting that crises in the Klamath River and Middle Rio Grande River basins-where farmers, urban residents, Native Americans, and fish and wildlife have been affected by water shortages-vividly demonstrate the consequences of failing to strategically address the problem of competing demands for a finite water supply.

"Water 2025 recognizes that states, tribes, and local governments should have a leading role in meeting these challenges," Norton said. "The Department of the Interior should focus its attention and resources on areas where scarce federal dollars can provide the greatest benefits to the West and the nation."

In some areas, the Secretary noted, there is not enough water to meet the existing needs of cities, farms, tribes, and the environment even under normal water conditions. And, the continuing drought magnifies already stressed water supply situations in important river basins.

Driving this new reality, she noted, are explosive population growth in western urban areas, the increasing need for water for environmental and recreational users, and the national importance of food and fiber production from Western farms and ranches.

The Water 2025 effort could help stretch existing water supplies by improving conservation, using more efficiencies, and better monitoring of water resources. Modernizing aging water supply structures-from dams and reservoirs to pumping stations, pipelines, and canals-can help stretch existing water supplies.

In some cases, collaborative approaches and market-based transfers can use water banks or other means to meet emerging needs. Federal investments in research and development can provide more affordable water treatment technologies, such as desalination, to increase water supplies in critical areas.

"Water 2025 provides a basis for a public discussion of the realities that face the West, so that decisions can be made at the appropriate level in advance of water supply crises," Norton explained. In working with western communities, Interior is guided by the principles of federalism and fiscal reality at both the federal and state levels.

"Water 2025 is a commitment by Interior to work with states, tribes, local governments, and the public to address water supply challenges in the West," Norton said. "These decisions cannot and should not be driven from a federal level. They should be based on-and will require-local and regional support."

A primary principle of Water 2025 is that solutions to complex water supply issues must recognize and respect state, tribal, and federal water rights, contracts, and interstate compacts and decrees of the United States Supreme Court that allocate the right to use water.

The Department is confident, Norton said, that these water supply challenges can and will be met in a manner that protects and enhances the economy and the environment of the West and the nation.

DOI Water 2025 Website


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