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Schatz Introduces Legislation to Secure Water Resources

Legislation Will Finally Make Hawai‘i Water Conservation Projects Eligible for WaterSMART Grants

Washington, DC – U.S. Senator Brian Schatz (D-Hawai‘i), Chairman of the Energy and Natural Resources Subcommittee on Water and Power, announced the SECURE Water Amendments Act of 2014 (S.2019) today, legislation to conserve water resources and promote sustainability.  The SECURE Water Amendments Act of 2014 will expand grants and increase funding for water conservation and drought projects, provide resources for better data collection and analysis of water supply and use, and finally make Hawai‘i water conservation projects eligible for grants.  Schatz's Water and Power Subcommittee will hold a hearing this Thursday on the legislation and companion legislation will soon be introduced in the House.

“The drought Maui and Hawai‘i Island have recently experienced and competition for limited water supplies all over the country shows we need a better approach when it comes to water efficiency and conservation,” Senator Schatz said.  “The SECURE Water Amendments Act will make sure local water authorities have resources to conserve and use water more efficiently, especially when planning for and reducing the impacts of drought.  This means water conservation projects in Hawai‘i will finally become eligible for WaterSMART grants.  Because WaterSMART saves water and money, I want to make sure this program continues its good work.  There has not been a comprehensive national water report for more than 35 years. Right now, each state collects information differently without a consistent national strategy.  This bill will help states gather and study water information that can be used to develop a national water assessment.”

To conserve water and promote sustainability, the bill:

  • Increases funding for WaterSMART grants.  The bill will increase funding for the Department of the Interior’s WaterSMART grant program, which supports local water management projects that conserve and use water more efficiently, increases the use of renewable energy, protects endangered species, and facilitates water markets.
  • Provides resources to plan for and combat drought.  Currently, drought-related projects are not authorized to receive WaterSMART grants.  With extreme droughts recently reported in Maui, Hawai‘i Island, and across the country, this bill makes sure projects that prepare for and respond to droughts are eligible for funding under the WaterSMART grant program.
  • Makes projects in Hawai‘i eligible for WaterSMART grants.  Hawai‘i is not currently considered a “Reclamation State” because the Reclamation Act of 1902 became law before Hawai‘i statehood, making the state ineligible to compete for WaterSMART grants.  The SECURE Water Amendments Act of 2014 will finally make Hawai‘i projects eligible for those grants. 
  • Helps to develop a comprehensive national water assessment.  Schatz’s bill will provide resources for states to gather and analyze water supply and use information in a consistent manner to help develop a uniform national assessment of water availability and use.

“Water resources play a vital role in Hawai‘i, and we have seen with recent droughts throughout our islands, we must finds ways to provide reliable water access for all of our communities,” said Congresswoman Tulsi Gabbard (HI-02), who will be an original co-sponsor of companion legislation in the House of Representatives.  “By ensuring Hawai‘i is eligible for the WaterSMART program, it would give our state access to federal grants to fund locally cost-shared water management improvements that save significant amounts of water.  The SECURE Water Amendments Act will allow us to better use our limited resources, improve energy efficiency, and protect our precious environment.”

The Senate bill is co-sponsored by Senators Martin Heinrich (D-N.M.), Mazie Hirono (D-Hawai‘i), Mark Udall (D-Colo.), Tom Udall (D-N.M.), and Ron Wyden (D-Ore.).

“Maui is committed to increasing water conservation and water reuse,” said Dave Taylor, Director of Maui County’s Department of Water Supply.  “This legislation will make projects on Maui eligible for WaterSMART grants that can help support sustainable use of our limited water resources.  Making projects in Maui eligible for WaterSMART grants can help us address problems of supply and conservation of water.  Our recent drought experience emphasizes how important it is to use water resources sustainably – these grants can help us do just that.”

“Hawai‘i, like other western states, faces ongoing drought and an uncertain climate future,” said William Tam, Deputy Director of the Hawai‘i Department of Land and Natural Resource Management’s Commission on Water Resource Management.  “Water conservation is critical to effective water management.  Access to U.S. Bureau of  Reclamation’s WaterSMART program will help Hawai‘i to conserve this limited resource, address conflicting needs, plan for climate change, and work toward water and energy sustainability.”

The SECURE Water Amendments Act of 2014 is supported by the American Planning Association, the Theodore Roosevelt Conservation Partnership, and the Western States Water Council.