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October 20, 2020  |  Written by Leila C. Behnampour

President Trump Signs Executive Order to Establish Water Subcabinet

Efficiency in federal water issues is a goal sought by many different users across all political and user spectrums.  On October 13, 2020, President Trump issued an Executive Order (Order) creating a Water Subcabinet to promote coordination across federal agencies on water-related issues, and to increase engagement with state, local, tribal, and territorial governments on water supply issues.  The Order has implications for Western water projects with federal components, and includes projects in California, Colorado, and Oregon, as well as in other Western states, especially as such projects relate to storage and drought resiliency.

Hopefully, this is an important initiative for many types of Western water users, so that greater efficiencies can be found when implementing long-term and complex strategies to deal with climate challenges facing Western communities.

Interagency Water Subcabinet

The Water Subcabinet will be co-chaired by the Secretary of the Interior and Administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency, and will include the Secretary of Agriculture, the Secretary of Commerce, the Secretary of Energy, the Secretary of the Army, and “heads of such other agencies as the Co-Chairs deem appropriate” according to the Order, at Section 3.  The tasks of the Water Subcabinet include improving water resource management, addressing aging water infrastructure, and prioritizing a reliable, safe, and clean water supply in the United States, while eliminating duplication between federal agencies.  The first task of the Water Subcabinet is to reduce duplication and consolidate the many federal water-related task forces, working groups and other initiatives.

Improving Water Resource Management

Key tasks of the Water Subcabinet include taking actions on the following topics:

Increasing water storage, water supply reliability, and drought resiliency:  Most notable for Western water projects is the directive to coordinate agency reviews for permitting and regulatory requirements, which should reduce delays in the permitting processes.  The Order also directs increasing engagement with states and local governments and tribes regarding the Colorado River drought and irrigated agriculture in the Colorado Basin.

Improving water quality:  The Order directs the Water Subcabinet to promote water quality restoration activities, and to evaluate water quality issues among minority and low-income communities.

Other tasks include improving drinking water, desalination, wastewater and flood control systems, and improving water data management, research, modeling and forecasting.

Infrastructure Planning and Water Sector Workforce

The Water Subcabinet will also support planning and coordination to modernize water infrastructure, including infrastructure for drinking water, desalination, water reuse, wastewater, irrigation, flood control, transportation, and water storage and conveyance.  The Water Subcabinet is also directed to provide assistance to state, local, tribal, and territorial governments to improve the water sector workforce through recruitment, training, and retention of water professionals.

Conclusion

The Water Subcabinet allows for increased coordination among the federal agencies to manage water resources, ensure the resilience of water infrastructure, and promote water-related infrastructure planning.  Hopefully, this is an important initiative for many types of Western water users, so that greater efficiencies can be found when implementing long-term and complex strategies to deal with climate challenges facing Western communities.

For more information about the Order and how it may impact water supply planning and water-related infrastructure, please contact Leila Behnampour at (303) 449-2834 or lbehnampour@somachlaw.com.

Somach Simmons & Dunn provides the information in its Environmental Law & Policy Alerts and on its website for informational purposes only.  This general information is not a substitute for legal advice, and users should consult with legal counsel for specific advice.  In addition, using this information or sending electronic mail to Somach Simmons & Dunn or its attorneys does not create an attorney-client relationship with Somach Simmons & Dunn.

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