western water officials will meet in Denver on June 6 for a discussion
about the reality of critical water issues in the West, Secretary Norton
told Colorado leaders today.
The Denver meeting, Water 2025: Preventing Crises and Conflict in the
West, will be the first of a series of consulting conferences in the
West aimed at developing a dialog on means of preventing chronic water
supply problems facing many communities in the coming decades.
"Locally driven, practical solutions are needed," Norton said
in remarks to Colorado Senator Wayne Allard's Capitol Conference. "States,
tribes, local governments, and affected communities should have a leading
role in this effort."
Norton noted that water shortages in the Klamath River and Middle Rio
Grande River basins demonstrate the consequences of failing to strategically
address long-term, systematic problems caused by competing demands for
a finite water supply.
"Crisis management is not an effective solution," she said.
"We need to work together now."
During the consulting conferences this summer, Interior and other federal
representatives will work with state and local officials, environmental
groups, tribes, and public interest groups.
The goal is to identify the watersheds facing the greatest potential
risk in the next 25 years, evaluate the most effective ways of addressing
water supply challenges, and recommend cooperative planning approaches
and tools that have the most likelihood of success.
A report on the recommendations of the meetings will be submitted to
Secretary Norton and other Administration officials.
Norton said her Water 2025 proposal is a commitment to work with and
support western governors and local communities as they carry out realistic,
community-based solutions developed through these consultations.
"Interior can focus scarce federal dollars and technical resources
where they provide the greatest benefits," she said. "But
collaboration with private citizens, local and state water agencies,
and private groups will be needed, so that dialog can take place locally
to plan and invest for future needs."
President Bush's FY 2004 budget calls for an initial investment of $11
million for such efforts.
Significant amounts of water can be conserved by modernizing water storage
and delivery systems, working with state and local partners to improve
water management with new technology, and targeting technical and financial
assistance to help farmers, ranchers, and municipalities make more efficient
use of their irrigation and drinking water.
Water 2025 also proposes spurring research and concentrating investment
in critically needed areas, such as reducing the cost of desalinating
sea water and impaired inland water, providing a more affordable water
source for some coastal communities and rural and tribal communities.
The Secretary's blueprint encourages voluntary water transfers through
water banks or other water marketing tools. These include agreements
that allow agricultural producers the option to rent or lease their
water to cities and towns or other users in times of drought, and still
have the ability to farm in most years.
The entire proposal may be found at www.doi.gov/water2025. Information
on the conferences also will be posted to this website.