Archive for July, 2010

Jul 29 2010

UN declare right to water

In very general terms, the United Nations General Assembly on July 28 declared a human right to water.

No nations voted against, but about 40, including the United States, abstained, mainly on grounds that the state could undercut efforts in Geneva aimed at improving access to water internationally.

The United States statement on its abstention, delivered by John F. Sammis, U.S. Deputy Representative to the Economic and Social Council, said:

The United States supports the work of the UN Human Rights Council’s Independent Expert on the issue of human rights obligations related to access to safe drinking water and sanitation. In fact, we co-sponsored the resolution on Human Rights and Access to Safe Drinking Water and Sanitation last September at the Human Rights Council in Geneva. We look forward to receiving the next report of the Independent Expert. We also look forward to a more inclusive, considered, and deliberative approach to these vital issues in Geneva than we have unfortunately experienced on this resolution in New York.

And I would just add to my prepared remarks that these concerns are not alleviated by the fact that just this morning, we have seen an amendment made to what the lead sponsor viewed as the core operative paragraph of the resolution from the floor. This again is an imposition on all of us. We haven’t had sufficient time to really consider the implications of this, and I think that it would have been far better, under the circumstances, not to bring this resolution forward for action today.

The United States had hoped to negotiate and ultimately join consensus on this text, on a text, that would uphold and support the international process underway at the Human Rights Council. Instead, we have here a resolution that falls far short of enjoying the unanimous support of member States and may even undermine the work underway in Geneva. This resolution describes a right to water and sanitation in a way that is not reflective of existing international law; as there is no “right to water and sanitation” in an international legal sense as described by this resolution.

The United States regrets that this resolution diverts us from the serious international efforts underway to promote greater coordination and cooperation on water and sanitation issues.

A UN statement said:

Safe and clean drinking water and sanitation is a human right essential to the full enjoyment of life and all other human rights, the General Assembly declared today, voicing deep concern that almost 900 million people worldwide do not have access to clean water.
The 192-member Assembly also called on United Nations Member States and international organizations to offer funding, technology and other resources to help poorer countries scale up their efforts to provide clean, accessible and affordable drinking water and sanitation for everyone.

The Assembly resolution received 122 votes in favour and zero votes against, while 41 countries abstained from voting.

The text of the resolution expresses deep concern that an estimated 884 million people lack access to safe drinking water and a total of more than 2.6 billion people do not have access to basic sanitation. Studies also indicate about 1.5 million children under the age of five die each year and 443 million school days are lost because of water- and sanitation-related diseases.

Today’s resolution also welcomes the UN Human Rights Council’s request that Catarina de Albuquerque, the UN Independent Expert on the issue of human rights obligations related to access to safe drinking water and sanitation, report annually to the General Assembly as well.

Ms. de Albuquerque’s report will focus on the principal challenges to achieving the right to safe and clean drinking water and sanitation, as well as on progress towards the relevant Millennium Development Goals (MDGs).

The MDGs, a series of targets for reducing social and economic ills, all by 2015, includes the goals of halving the proportion of people who cannot reach or afford safe drinking water and halving the number who do not have basic sanitation.

In a related development, Ms. de Albuquerque issued a statement today after wrapping up a nine-day official visit to Japan in which she praised the country for its nearly universal access to water and sanitation and for its use of innovative technologies to promote hygiene and treat wastewater.

But the Independent Expert said she was shocked that some members of the Utoro community near Kyoto, where Koreans have been living for several generations, still do not have access to water from the public network.

Also: The 2010 report of the Global Annual Assessment of Sanitation and Drinking-Water (GLAAS), a UN-Water initiative implemented by the World Health Organization, has just been released.

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Jul 28 2010

NC: Regional commission may impact rights

Published by under North Carolina

North Carolina is approaching creation of a regional resources commission that may have significant effect on the use of wster rights in some parts of the state.

A description of the measure, passed by the legislature and nearing expected signature by the governor, from the North Carolina Water Rights Committee.

The N.C. Water Rights Committee is praising the General Assembly for establishing the Uwharrie Regional Resources Commission.

The bill, sponsored by Senator Fletcher Hartsell and supported by Governor Perdue, passed after Senator Hartsell played legislators a rough cut of a UNC-TV documentary detailing Alcoa’s multiple cases of environmental neglect and contamination in Stanly County.

When Alcoa received its last 50-year license in 1958 it promised, in exchange for damming the Yadkin, it would provide 1,000

jobs at its aluminum smelter. The smelter is now closed and the jobs are gone and the new Commission will determine how Alcoa’s four remaining dams on the Yadkin River may best be used to serve the public interest by creating jobs in North Carolina.

The Uwharrie Regional Resources Commission is a unique creation that will be located within the N.C. Department of Commerce but operate independently; the bill passed the N.C. House of Representatives on a 77-21 vote, following a vote of 47-1 in favor in the N.C. Senate. Gov. Bev Perdue is expected to sign the legislation into law, as she has been an outspoken supporter of legislation.

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Jul 27 2010

CA: Management report issued

Published by under California

The California Department of Water Resources on July 27 released its Final Integrated Regional Water Management Program Guidelines and Proposal Solicitation Packages for the Planning Grant, Implementation Grant, and Stormwater Flood Management Grant programs.

The Guidelines and PSPs will be used to disburse IRWM grant funding pursuant to the Safe Drinking Water, Water Quality and Supply, Flood Control, River and Coastal Protection Bond Act of 2006 (Proposition 84) and SWFM grant funding pursuant to the Disaster Preparedness and Flood Prevention Bond Act of 2006 (Proposition 1E). The IRWM Program is designed to encourage integrated regional strategies for management of
water resources and to provide funding for projects for both planning and implementation that
support integrated water management.

The Guidelines establish the general process, procedures, and criteria that DWR will use to implement the IRWM Program including the IRWM Planning, IRWM Implementation, and SWFM grants. The PSPs provide specific instructions for potential applicants to apply for these grant programs.

These newly released documents as well as other information about the IRWM Grant Program can be found at:

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Jul 27 2010

ID: Hailey, home association head to court

Published by under cities,Idaho

The city of Hailey, a few miles from Sun Valley, appears about to head to court to defend a water right

The city has long claimed rights amount to 3.52 cubic feet per second originating in Indian Creek springs, arising from a canyon near town; these rights are dated 1880. Another, 5 fs, right has a 1980 date.

The Indian Creek Homeowners Association does not dispute all of the Hailey claims, but it does dispute some of them. The city has been defending them vigorously, partly because of the rights explicitly noted but also because of groundwater access in the immediate area. Under conjunction management – handling ground and surface water together – rules, the surface water rights may affect groundwater rights. Both could be crucial to the fast-growing city.

The Idaho Mountain Express noted that ” Last year, the city took a 3 cfs portion of an 1883 water right in from Old Cutters developer John Campbell, who was several months behind in annexation fee payments.” The value placed on it was $930,000.

[See also the Idaho Mountain Express, Ketchum, July 21.]

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Jul 26 2010

AZ: Navajo water settlement measure tabled

The Intergovernmental Relations Committee of the Navajo Nation tabled, on a 9-0 vote, the Northeastern Arizona Indian Water Rights Settlement legislation (Legislation No. 0422-10), sponsored by George Arthur.

Ervin Keeswood (Tse Daa Kaan) said there was not enough information for the committee to make a decision, as the sponsor and agents to the legislation summarized the 108 page document. “I do not feel as though we have enough information at this time,” Keeswood said. “This committee has yet to thoroughly go through the document. We need to do that.”

The water agreement legislation would settle Navajo Nation water rights claims in the lower basin of the Colorado River and Little Colorado River system. On July 22, the Resources Committee unanimously approved this legislation.

As a result of the tabling motion, a committee work session regarding this legislation is tentatively scheduled in the next few
weeks before going to the full Council.

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Jul 23 2010

NZ: Moratorium set on Hurunui River

Published by under New Zealand

Hurunui River/Environment Canterbury Regional Council

Environment Canterbury Commissioners have, at a Special Council Meeting on Thursday July 22, 2010, imposed a moratorium on the Hurunui River to take, dam, divert or use water.

Commissioner Peter Skelton, who moved the motion at the meeting, said the moratorium would come into effect on August 2, 2010 and would stay in force until October 1, 2011 (unless it was lifted earlier or extended beyond that date).

“The targeted and time-limited moratorium will put on hold the processing of current applications for water consents until six months after the end of the moratorium.

“This will give us the space to put an integrated and forward-looking planning framework in place for the catchment which recognises the high recreational, ecological, fishing, and cultural values of the river, as well as taking into account the needs of farmers,” said Commissioner Skelton.

Environment Canterbury sought and received prior approval from Minister for the Environment Nick Smith to consider a moratorium, as required in the Environment Canterbury (Temporary Commissioners and Improved Water Management) Act.

Existing resource consents would not be affected by a moratorium.

Any new consent applications submitted while a moratorium is in force would not be processed and would be returned to the applicant as soon as practicable.

Commissioner Skelton said the Hurunui River and its tributaries met the criteria for moratoria set out in the Environment Canterbury Act. “Demand for water in the catchment is increasing, the water available is nearly fully allocated, and in its lower reaches water quality is not satisfactory.”

A number of overlapping statutory processes are underway in the catchment, including an application for a Water Conservation Order, and an application by the Hurunui Water Project for water storage for irrigation in the upper Hurunui.

“There are also planning processes underway designed to set a framework for the catchment, including limits for water allocation. The Hurunui River is highly significant to Canterbury and it is important that decisions regarding water are made in the right order.

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Jul 23 2010

NM: Commission holds off Intel deal

Published by under New Mexico

A proposed water agreement between New Mexico and Intel Corporation scheduled for action on July 22 was held off, possibly indefinitely, by the New Mexico Interstate Stream Commission.

An interim legislative committee had, the day before, considered the matter and debated it extensively.

The deal was hoped both to help the company, a major water user in its manufacturing operations, and provide some water security downstream by relieving some use pressure. Critics warned that it could endanger some long-running water rights, among other concerns.

The Commission described the agreement this way:

Under the proposed agreement the Interstate Stream Commission will receive water rights and funds from Intel in exchange for assuming part of Intel’s obligation to offset Rio Grande depletion impacts that result from Intel’s groundwater pumping. The Interstate Stream Commission plans to meet that obligation using water that it has available to it, including water rights Intel will convey to them, relinquished Rio Grande Compact credits and other sources available to the Interstate Stream Commission.

Under the terms of the agreement, the state would receive about 741 acre-feet of senior water rights that would ultimately be placed in the Strategic Water Reserve for ecological projects aimed at solving endangered species issues in the Middle Rio Grande. In addition, Intel will also provide $1 million a year for 10 years, adjusted for inflation, to the Interstate Stream Commission for the Strategic Water Reserve and for dealing with endangered species issues on the Middle Rio Grande.

The Director of the Interstate Stream Commission and staff have been meeting with Middle Rio Grande stakeholders to help explain the agreement and its benefits to New Mexico.

The issue is expected to come back before the commission, a schedule is not clear.

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Jul 22 2010

CA: Delta water heavily over-used

Published by under California

A report by the California Water Resources Control Board released on July 20 says that Californians will have to cut use of San Joaquin Delta water by half to meet sustainable levels for the long haul.

The report itself noted that “None of the determinations in this report have regulatory or adjudicatory effect. Any process with regulatory or adjudicative effect must take place through the State Water Board’s water quality control planning, water rights processes, or public trust proceedings in conformance with applicable law. In the State Water Board’s development of Delta flow objectives with regulatory effect, it must ensure the reasonable protection of beneficial uses, which may entail balancing of competing beneficial uses of water, including municipal and industrial uses, agricultural uses, and other environmental uses. The State Water Board’s evaluation will include an analysis of the effect of any changed flow objectives on the environment in the watersheds in which Delta flows originate, the Delta, and the areas in which Delta water is used. It will also include an analysis of the economic impacts that result from changed flow objectives.”

Among other considerations, the report said, “The Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta (Delta) is a critically important natural resource for
California and the nation. It is both the hub of California’s water supply system and the most valuable estuary and wetlands on the western coast of the Americas. The Delta is in ecological crisis, resulting in high levels of conflict that affect the sustainability of existing water policy in California. Several species of fish have been listed as protected species under the California Endangered Species Act and under the federal Endangered Species Act. These two laws and other regulatory constraints have restricted water diversions from the Delta in an effort to prevent further harm to the protected species.”

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Jul 22 2010

NM: Cities sue for more water

Four northwest New Mexico cities are suing the state engineer’s office, saying the should allow the cities to use much more water than it allowed from the Animas-La Plata project.

The recently-completed Animas-LaPlata project was designed to supply water to a number of users in the region. Its operator, the Bureau of Reclamation, said that “The project is being built to fulfill the water rights settlement of the two Indian tribes that live in Colorado – the Ute Mountain Ute Tribe and the Southern Ute Indian Tribe. These tribes have water rights that date back to 1868. Fulfillment of the settlement obligations, one of which is completing the Animas-La Plata Project, will provide non-Indian water users in Southwest Colorado certainty to the continued, historical use of water. Storage is an important aspect of water supply in the semi-arid western United States, where there is usually not a reliable, regular flow of sufficient water in streams and rivers to meet water needs year round. Lastly, the project will provide nearly 33% of the storage in Lake Nighthorse for use by non-Indian entities in the Four Corners region.”

The cities of Farmington, Aztec and Bloomfield are among them, but they have been receiving much less water than they originally had expected. The project as outlined by Congress in its original 1968 authorization called for much larger water levels, but also a much larger project than the one completed in the last decade.

The suit against the engineer’s office may eventually go to federal court.

[see the Farmington (NM) Daily Times, July 21.]

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Jul 20 2010

TX/OK: Texas water imports still sought

Published by under Oklahoma,Texas

The Tarrant Regional Water District, which serves the area in and around Fort Worth, made clear in late June that it is continuing to pursue water from relatively waster-rich southeastern Oklahoma, the opposition of a number of Oklahoma officials notwithstanding.

The Oklahoma Legislature this year passed a measure designed to give strong priority and preference to water use within the state – a specific attempt to block water being suctioned south. Tarrant has filed suit saying the law is unconstitutional.

Charlie Price, of the Oklahoma Attorney General’s office, was quoted as saying, “We have been to federal court on that issue. Twice now the federal court has ruled in the state’s favor. We stand ready to defend our statute at the next level.”

From the Texas viewpoint, piping waster from eastern Oklahoma would less expensive per gallon than building large new water projects in Texas. The inflow could be enormous, as much as 130 billion gallons.

That is expected to continue despite a legal reversal on July 16 delivered by U.S. District Judge Joe Heaton. The judge granted a summary judgement sought by the Oklahoma Water Resources Board and the Oklahoma Water Conservation Storage Commission, throwing out Tarrant’s case. But Tarrant attorneys indicated they may appeal.

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