State Water Planning
Sep 18, 2017
CONSERVATION OF WATER in the draft Water Plan
In this section, we offer our ideas on some of the key issues regarding CONSERVATION OF WATER in the draft Water Plan. Our comments are followed by references in the text to these key issues. We hope this will help you in formulating comments of your own. As always, Rivers Alliance of Connecticut stands ready to answer any questions you may have relating to the Plan. Email email@example.com
GOOD: The draft Plan has a unanimous goal of encouraging water conservation. Yay! Everyone likes conservation!! (We, of course, feel that conservation of natural waters is as important as conservation of water running in pipes.)
BUT: We find the following areas in need of improvement if the goal is a robust and effective water-conservation policy.
Conservation Effort: The Plan is biased towards modest water-customer conservation efforts, led by the water utilities. But water use by customers has dropped significantly (about 12 percent) in recent years. And, since water conservation normally means less revenue for water utilities, one can hardly expect an energetic and enthusiastic conservation program with utilities in the lead.
Water Conservation Pricing: One promising approach to water conservation that does not unduly stress water utilities is water pricing that separates the direct connection between volumes of water sold and revenue gained. The approved water rate is sufficient for infrastructure maintenance. This is sometimes called “decoupling.” Connecticut has adopted decoupling provisions for private water companies. Public utilities have not been enthusiastic. They do not want state rate regulation.
Drought Planning. Connecticut has been working on an updated drought plan for more than ten years. There is universal agreement that we need a plan that provides for fair and prudent water management in times of drought (such as the summers of 2015 and 2016). But in the state draft Plan, there is no urgency with respect to moving a state drought plan forward for approval. It is critical to have a better drought plan in place before the next drought.
Water Conservation and Ecological Health: The Plan states that droughts or other water shortages that harm streams must be addressed in planning. Having water available in pipes while streambeds are dry is not acceptable. But, in general, there is little emphasis on using conservation measures to protect natural streams. Taken as a whole, the Plan implies that meeting instream or ecological needs will be difficult or impossible, as if the impracticality of saving high-quality streams is a foregone conclusion.
Municipal Conservation Efforts: The draft Plan gives only slight attention to the role of municipalities and the need for adoption of enforceable municipal water conservation measures. This is important in times of drought and emergency as water utilities have no enforcement powers. The state governor has authority (yet to be exercised) to declare a statewide drought emergency. But often drought and water emergencies occur on a local or regional scale. A local lawn watering ban might be what is needed, enforced by the municipality. But if the town hasn’t enacted an emergency water conservation ordinance, they can’t enforce a lawn watering ban, or any other water conservation measures.
Water Conservation = Energy Conservation: The Plan needs to give more attention to the relationship between water conservation and energy conservation. Energy is used to treat water before distribution, during distribution and for wastewater treatment after use. Water is used for cooling power facilities and delivering hydropower. One of the most effective approaches to conserving water and energy is to control peak demand. Entire streams are diverted and power plants built to meet demand in peak-use times. For example, a hydro facility may impound a river year round so that the plant can supply a small amount of electricity for say, three months of the year.
Aug 14, 2017
Connecticut State Water Plan Final Draft Report - June 2017
Rivers Alliance and Connecticut Fund for the Environment are creating a website to assist the public in understanding and advising our state government regarding the Draft State Water Plan. We will let our members and network partners know when the website is ready (and announce it here of course), and will be providing updates and guidance as the comment period proceeds. To sign up for Rivers Alliance emails, please click here. To sign up for news alerts from the Connecticut Water Planning Council, register at www.ct.gov/water or send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org requesting to be added to the e-alert distribution.
In the meantime, here are links the state provides to the plan and how to comment when you are ready.
Eversource energy company announced on June 3 that it is buying Aquarion water company from Macquarie Bank of Australia for $1.675 billion. Eversource (formerly named Northeast Utilities) supplies power regionally, including to most of Connecticut. Aquarion (formerly Bridgeport Hydraulic) is the largest private water company in the region and dominates supply in western Connecticut. Residents in that area will now be served by a single private utility for power and water. Some of Eversource's recent practices have not been friendly to the environment, including the extensive clear-cutting it is doing in its transmission rights of way. Approval of the merger is in the hands of utility regulators, so customers and environmental advocates can be heard. Click here for a map of Aquarion's existing and claimed service areas in Connecticut.
Connecticut Water Co. sponsored a talk by Mary Ann Dickinson of the Alliance for Water Efficiency on Friday, May 26th, on water conservation topics and trends. The meeting was held at the Public Utilities Regulatory Authority (PURA) New Britain. Dickinson is a nationally recognized expert on water supply efficiency and conservation. She is also a former Connecticut resident and agency staffer, familiar with our water laws and policies. The topic is highly relevant to the draft state water plan and goals of protecting the state’s water resources. Rivers Alliance will be most interested in her ideas on conservation water pricing, that is, pricing of water that avoids discounts for high-volume users and provides incentives for water supply conservation. A number of water companies in the state resist this approach to pricing. Others are more receptive.
May 19, 2017
Your Help Is Needed: please suggest examples of streams and watersheds that are stressed, pristine, or on the edge for the State Water Plan and for other water-protection work
The Connecticut State Water Plan will include a few examples of streams and watersheds that are representative of different conditions of health: stressed, pristine, or on the edge of one category or the other.
Rivers Alliance and other advocacy groups have been active participants in the development of what is now a Draft State Water Plan. Rivers Alliance, since 2002, has kept a list of low-flow rivers, and we have also tried to track conditions in high-quality state streams, such as state trout management areas.
The Draft State Water Plan was presented by the Water Planning Council on May 16. It will be available for general public comment next month. We will keep you posted.
You -- our members and the network of river advocates -- are the most knowledgeable river people to whom we can turn. We would welcome suggestions from you on which river watersheds would be good examples for these three categories. Your recommendations may be used in the state plan and will be used to update our own body of information on state streams.
Please email email@example.com with the subject line "Plan Examples" and recommend river systems you are familiar with that would make good examples of pristine, stressed, on the edge watersheds. We would be interested in your own experience at the local level. We are especially interested in information regarding rivers on the cusp -- those that could improve or become worse in the near future.
Thanks for your help on this important step in the development of your State Water Plan. As always, feel free to ask us anything (water related) at 860-361-9349 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Here is what we have heard from our members and friends so far:
CT DEEP's Integrated Water Resource Management program identifies Selected Waters for Action Plan Development. The river systems identified for Restoration (aka stressed) are:
The river systems identified for Protection (aka pristine) are:
From Rivers Alliance's Know Your Flow webpage, we looked at our low-flow list counts from the 10 consecutive lists Dec 8, 2016-Feb 21, 2017. This was when drought conditions were starting to improve.
Update on State Water Planning
Here follows a summary of events in state water planning as of March. The next big news regarding water planning will come in June, when the draft state plan is released for public comment. Meanwhile all meetings related to water planning are listed on our website at http://riversalliance.org/wp/ourwaterct/
In 2014, the state embarked on a project of comprehensive state water planning. The effort accelerated in 2016, led by the Water Planning Council and consultant CDM Smith. Some 10 overlapping policy groups have been meeting regularly throughout last year and this year. The purpose of the plan is to provide for, or allocate, water for supply (water in pipes) and water for streams and other natural waters. Concurrently, the Department of Public Health and water utilities are developing a statewide water-supply plan. Both the comprehensive plan and the water supply plan are supposed to be finished and ready for distribution and comment by this summer.
The comprehensive plan will consist of descriptions of state water programs and policies, identification of problems and opportunities, and recommendations on how to move forward. Much of this is already written in draft form. The process has highlighted the tension between the goal of healthy natural waters and the goal of abundant water supply of the highest quality (as exists in upland streams and aquifers). While there are many areas of agreement, only time will tell if natural waters will be valued fairly and protected reliably.
The planning being done by water companies is divided into three regional sections with the results eventually to be integrated into a statewide supply plan. All water companies (more than 2,000 of them) are in one of three Water Utility Coordinating Committees (WUCCs) corresponding to each region; the only representation in the WUCCs is one member from each of the state's nine Councils of Government (COGS). The prime goal of the WUCCs is to allocate customers and sources into exclusive service areas no later than the finish date of the comprehensive water plan. This tight deadline resulted in shortchanging the assessment of regional conditions and problems, which is supposed to be complete before exclusive service areas are established. The WUCCs have gathered a great deal of data, which will be useful, but they have not fully translated that data into coherent assessments of conditions and problems. These assessments, when done, could be valuable for water planning.
A surprise WUCC function popped up last summer, when a restaurateur wanted to open a steakhouse in Litchfield. The restaurant needed a well as water supply. It seems that, under a long-neglected law, any person or business or municipality that wants to develop a project with a new source of water for the public has to get WUCC approval before moving forward.
In the case of the steakhouse, the nearest utility, Aquarion, stated that their supply infrastructure was five miles away, so the restaurant could develop its water source using Department of Health standards. Another facet of this section of WUCC law is that the dominant utility having an exclusive service area is supposed to be responsible for providing water to anyone in its service area. This also came into play last year in an effort to create a large, multi-unit housing complex in Bridgewater. The developer assured concerned citizens that there would be adequate water supply because Aquarion would "own" it. But Aquarion had not yet signed off.
As with comprehensive water planning, it is still too early to tell if WUCCs will provide a net benefit to consumers and the environment. The law and the process do have potential for good, but they do add another one of those dreaded "new layers of bureaucracy."
Dec 16, 2016
Drought Plan written comments are due to PURA no later than 4 p.m. on Friday, December 16, 2016.
At the request of Rivers Alliance, PURA is streamlining the commenting process: you can now e-mail them in an attachment to Linda Baez, at Linda.Baez@ct.gov. Be sure to include the phrase "16-10-12 Drought Plan Comments" and your name or the name any organization(s) you are representing in the subject line of the e-mail to Ms. Baez.
Ms. Baez will post the comments under the subject Docket, print a hard copy and put the hard copy of the comments in the Docket file.
Should you experience problems attempting to file comments through the Authority's Web Filing System, please contact the Help Desk at DEEP.Helpdesk@ct.gov or by calling 860-424-3882.
The drought plan is a thoughtful, informative, and exceptionally well written document. The science is excellent. We thank the Drought Plan Workgroup for undertaking this important task. But we see some barriers to implementation and have a few other concerns. Our major concerns are addressed to some extent by in the cover letter to the Plan, which should be read carefully.
The state's drought planning is done primarily by the Interagency Drought Workgroup, which consists of experts from different state agencies and was established informally in the 1980s. The group's authority has not been clearly defined. It lacks a clear organizational structure for setting work goals and making decisions.
There is an important emphasis on collecting vital data for drought planning and response. For example, the plan outlines the importance of tasks to: "Regularly monitor the primary indicators of drought; systematically collect, analyze, and disseminate real-time drought related information. ... Identify geographic extent of dry conditions and determine affected regions." But it is not clear who in the government is responsible to accumulate the information regularly, by what methods, and to whoM does that person(s) report?
It is critically important that the makeup and responsibilities of the IDW be established in some sort of official instrument. Where there is a collection of professionals, there should be some sort of process for dealing with split opinions. Without a better structure, there will be a lack of predictability and accountability.
The Plan offers new, different names for drought stages that differ from those used by water utilities, those currently used by the state, and those used by some national organizations. We feel the addition of new names is confusing, even though intended to avoid confusion. Our feeling is that utilities and others should follow state guidelines, using the same terms for the same conditions.
A regional or nationwide drought monitor, such as the U.S. Drought Monitor, could be used as a threshold standard for deciding drought stages. It would be helpful if state drought stages aligned better, at least generally, with nationally recognized drought stages. Connecticut could still have its own refinements with respect to criteria.
Among these criteria for water conservation, we are concerned with the present emphasis on reservoir levels. Groundwater and well levels are equally important, especially in persuading the public of the need to conserve water. In the Plan and in the cover letter, the authors identify the need for more information on groundwater systems.
There is some confusion in the reference to averages and percentiles to be used in determining drought conditions. Statistical drought triggers represent a large amount of data that can be compiled in many ways. For example, the Plan points to: "Precipitation Two months cumulative below 65% of average." For how much of the state? Counties? Watersheds? If on a particular day half the state is below 65% and half above, is that criteria met? Is that average measured by weather stations or radar data? Is it the average of all the weather stations' averages in the state or is there a certain number of them that have to have measured the 65% below their own stations' averages? Will these calculations be done for the two months previous to every Tuesday? Every day? First day of the month? And so forth.
Dec 5, 2016
Excellent explanation of where we are in state water planning and policy. Thank you, Connecticut Mirror and Tom Condon.
The article uses the bottled water issue to lead into broader concerns with water across the whole state.
Want to know more?
2. "...members of the public rarely attend ... meetings, which tend to be dry and technical..." can be applied across the entire huge water planning process. The state publishes meeting information in different places, so we take information from their pages to create a master schedule of CT water planning meetings on our website 3. Save Our Water CT , a group in opposition to the bottling plant, is one of our 2016 Environmental Champions.
October 31, 2016
MDC Hiding Behind Security Claim
|White Paper 1B1: Current Water Resource Management Structure REV 1 Oct 2016||This document is a summary of current water resource management structure topics, and will be incorporated into the State Water Plan (draft and final reports). This white paper describes the existing management structure at the state, regional, and local levels (including roles and responsibilities of agencies and committees), and identifies significant components of the decision-making process.|
|White Paper 1B2: Conservation and Economic Development REV 1 Oct 2016||This paper outlines land management, and summarizes land conservation plans and economic development patterns, trends, or plans as available by region. While it draws upon localized examples, this is a general examination of trends and practices at the regional level.|
|White Paper 1B3: Water Management Options REV 1 Oct 2016||This paper outlines the broad strategies that may be used to address Connecticut's water supply needs. These strategies are comprised of different methods or "options" that can be implemented independently or in combination with other options. The options can be grouped into demand management and supply management alternatives.|
|White Paper 1B4: Future Water Management Challenges (Not yet available)||This paper will identify and discuss perceived conflicts and challenges identified during the preparation of the planning process through collaboration with the WPC Steering Committee.|
|Task 1B Comments and Responses Tracking Log 10-18-2016||This document is a record of comments received so far by the consulting firm regarding the white papers and responses to those those comments. It includes the reviewer's name, page reference, section numbers, paragraph title, the comment, the response, and resolution detail, as applicable.|
There will be three additional public meetings in the next phase of the project, during the winter and spring of 2017.
For more information go to the website for the Water Planning Council (WPC). It has a calendar of meetings of the WPC and its committees.
The CT Department of Public Health (DPH) posts information about the Water Utility Coordinating Committees (WUCCs) that are also planning the use of the state's waters.
Rivers Alliance maintains a combined schedule of meetings on our website.
Call or email Rivers Alliance if you have questions: 860-361-9349 or email@example.com
Sep 21, 2016
The three Connecticut Water Utility Coordinating Committees (WUCCs) have each prepared a Preliminary Water Supply Assessment (Preliminary Assessment) for each Connecticut Public Water Supply Management Area (PWSMA). They are requesting review and comment on the Preliminary Assessment from all interested persons. Paper copies of each document are available in each region and at Rivers Alliance's office in Litchfield. Discussion of comments received to date will be discussed at the next WUCC meeting. Links to each WUCC's webpage, and each Preliminary Assessment are below along with the release date, the next meeting date at which they will discuss comments received so far, the date that comments are due, and the contact for sending comments.
|Preliminary Assessment||Released||Next Meeting||Comments due||Send comments to|
|Sep 13||Oct 11||Oct firstname.lastname@example.org
|Sep 22||Oct 25||Oct 24||DRadka@ctwater.com
|Sep 14||Oct 12||Oct email@example.com
A Frequently Asked Questions page by the consultant is at http://www.ct.gov/dph/lib/dph/drinking_water/pdf/esa_-_frequently_asked_questions.pdf
Contact Rivers Alliance for assistance in assessing the Assessments.
June 20, 2016
Starting June 14, three WUCCs hit the ground running. They are striving to write regional water supply plans to cover the entire state within one year. Each person in the state, even someone living on an undeveloped mountaintop, will be assigned to an exclusive service area (ESA). An ESA is an area served by just one water company. Legally and under WUCC law, the needs asserted by water companies for water in pipes usually trump the needs of fish and turtles for a place to live.
To follow these regional water plans, watch the Department of Public Health (DPH) website for regular postings. http://www.ct.gov/dph/cwp/view.asp?q=387352
To get notices of meetings and to voice your views, sign up with DPH at firstname.lastname@example.org. Also sign up with your WUCC. Each WUCC secretary is supposed to receive and distribute public comment. There are three WUCCs, each of which spans the state north to south.
The Western WUCC secretary is David Banker of the Metropolitan District Commission. Email email@example.com.
The Central Corridor WUCC secretary is Brendan Avery of Hazardville Water Company, Bavery@HazardvilleWater.com.
The Eastern WUCC secretary is Sam Alexander with the Northeastern Council of Governments (which is this WUCC's planning arm), firstname.lastname@example.org.
Meet the chairs of the three WUCCs. In the new bylaws, these seven men are personally responsible for developing the regional water supply plans for the state. So, if you know one, say hello or ask a question, or make a request.
The Western WUCC co-chairs are Daniel Lawrence, Aquarion Water Company, and Russell Posthauer, Candlewood Springs Property Owners Association.
The Central Corridor WUCC co-chairs are Bart Halloran, Metropolitan District Commission, and David Radka of the Connecticut Water Company.
The Eastern WUCC tri-chairs are Robert Congdon, Preston First Selectman; Mark Decker, Norwich Public Utilities; and a representative of SUEZ/Putnam WPCA.
On June 14, WUUCs didn't just hit the ground running, they hit it racing. Under CT statutes, WUCCs have had the mandate to do regional water planning for over 30 years (since 1985). Over that time, they got one-seventh of the state done and got a start on another three-sevenths. They rarely met.
But interest in the WUCCs caught fire in 2014, when the state passed into law Public Act 14-163, requiring the Water Planning Council to create a comprehensive state water plan for water supply, the environment, and other societal benefits. By the end of 2015, the water utilities had decided that they needed to finish their plans not later than the deadline for completion of the state comprehensive plan (July 2017). This self-imposed deadline is now a reason for cutting back on the number of people involved in the work and the opportunities for public comment. The public comment time slot in the agendas for the first WUCC meetings was 10 minutes (although the meeting managers were somewhat flexible). Plans for going forward seem to include a fair amount of business to be done in small groups. There isn't time for involvement by a lot of people. Click on the timeline to the right for a larger version in a new tab.
In their first meetings, it took each WUCC just two hours to adopt bylaws and elect the chairs, who (according to the bylaws) will be individually responsible for producing the regional plans.
WUCCs are groups of water companies. Each of the approximately 2,000+ water companies in the state is a member of one of three WUCCs: Western, Central, or Eastern. WUCCs are supposed to assess water resources in their regions, develop supply plans, and, apparently especially important, fully partition their regions into exclusive service areas (ESAs). This exercise might be a great service to the state if were to be done as a professional-association endeavor to come up with recommendations to the Water Planning Council for prudent water supply planning. But the plans made by WUCCs, if approved by the Department of Health, become the law. Can the state water plan alter ESAs? Unclear, but evidently not.
Each WUCC has many hundreds of members, but there is no member representing rate payers or the general public, with the possible exception that each of the seven state Council of Governments is allowed one member. There is no member representing the state's environmental and ecological resources. There is no representative for health concerns.
Thus, the WUCCs are essentially cartels. They are also one of the very few state organizations that will provide no opportunity for participation by telephone or Internet, either by their own members or the public.
So that is why we are urging all water advocates around the state to do their best to make their voices heard.
June 7, 2016
Process Overlaps State Comprehensive Water Planning. Relationship Unclear. Secrecy an Issue.
When Connecticut committed to doing statewide water planning for all its water resources in 2014, water utilities and the Department of Public Health (DPH) rapidly revived the semi-dormant WUCC program for allocating water supply and water customers. WUCC stands for "water utility coordinating committee." The WUCC program began in 1985, with deadlines starting in 1986. The mandate was to develop seven WUCC regional water supply plans, to be combined into a WUCC statewide plan. All customers and locales were to be apportioned into exclusive service areas (ESAs). By 2014, only one plan had been approved. Three had never been started. To expedite the process, DPH reduced the seven regions to three, and, at the urging of the Metropolitan District Commission (MDC), committed to completing the water supply regional plans and the statewide supply plan in one year -- from June 2016 to July 2017 (not coincidentally, the deadline for completing the state comprehensive water plan). Since 2014, WUCC plans are also required by statute to account for environmental impacts (a monumental addendum).
WUCC kick-off meetings are scheduled for next week. Each region extends from the north to Long Island Sound, roughly aligning with the watersheds for the Housatonic River, the Connecticut River, and the Thames River. Please attend if you can. Rivers Alliance will also provide reports on request.
Western WUCC. June 14. Brookfield Town Hall, 100 Pocono Road. 10 a.m. to 12 p.m. Click here for the Western WUCC Eligible Member List (pdf). Click here for the Western WUCC Map (pdf).
Central WUCC. June 15. Middletown City Hall, 24 deKoven Drive. 1:30 to 3:30 p.m. Click here for the Central Corridor WUCC Eligible Member List (pdf). Click here for the Central Corridor WUCC Map (pdf).
Eastern WUCC. June 17. SE CT Council of Govts., 5 Connecticut Ave., Norwich, 1 to 3 p.m. Click here for the Eastern WUCC Eligible Member List (pdf). Click here for the Eastern WUCC Map (pdf).
Only water companies are WUCC members. Environmental advocates, customer groups, etc. are not members. But DPH has pledged that the public will be able to speak.
Why You Should Care. If you want to have a say on the future of streams and wetlands in your town; if you want to have a say on whether your town should add public water-supply lines; if you want to have a say on groundwater pumping and groundwater quality; if you are interested in water, period -- raise your voice now!
Two High-level Concerns: Consistency and Secrecy. Consultants have just signed contracts to develop the WUCC supply plan and the state water plan. Milone & MacBroom is the consultant for WUCCs and is also on the team of the consultant for the state plan, CDM Smith. The relationship between the two processes is unclear. For example, will the consultants be working with the same data? Will they have the same planning goals for a region? Second, since 2003 and continuing through the 2016 legislative session, water utilities have fought hard and successfully to keep vital data away from the public. They have unique privileges and exemptions in the Freedom of Information (FOI) law. The rationale is security against enemy attacks, which is an important goal. But most of the secrecy appears off-target. For example, water utilities have just successfully argued that they need to keep secret the yields of well fields that have not yet been built and may never be built. So if state planners or citizens are interested in the quantity and quality of groundwater in areas claimed by water companies, they may be out of luck.
For questions or more information on how to participate in or follow the dual planning efforts, contact Rivers Alliance at email@example.com or 860-361-9349.
The DPH point person is Eric McPhee at 860-509-7333. The DPH webpage describing WUCCs is at http://www.ct.gov/dph/cwp/view.asp?q=387352.
June 5, 2016
There are two parallel water plans in the works for Connecticut. The Water Planning Council (WPC) is developing the comprehensive state water plan mandated by the legislature in 2014. The WPC consists of one member from each of the following agencies having responsibility for water: Department of Energy and Environmental Protection (DEEP); Department of Public Health (DPH); Public Utility Regulatory Authority (PURA), which is part of DEEP; and the Office of Policy and Management (OPM), essentially the governor's agency in charge of the state budget and planning.
The comprehensive water plan is required to take into account the needs of the environment and of water supply (water delivered via a pipe). The water supply plan is required to take into account needs related to supply, of course, and also environmental factors.
Development of the water supply plan is headed by DPH working through regional groups of water suppliers. These are Water Utility Coordinating Committees (WUCCs), whose members are water companies in the region and one representative from each Council of Governments in the regions. There are no membership slots for either watershed groups or customers. They may speak in public comment period.
The WUCC law is about 30 years old, and originally there were seven WUCC regions. Two years ago, DPH held public meetings on a proposal to shrink the number of WUCC regions to four; the result of the hearings was a new statewide WUCC configuration of three large regions. These roughly follow the three main river basins running north to south to Long Island Sound. The watersheds are the Housatonic, Connecticut, and Thames basins.
DPH has contracted with the consulting firm Milone & MacBroom to work with the three WUCCs to develop their regional plans and an umbrella state plan. The original schedule was one year per region, but, at the forceful recommendation of the Metropolitan District Commission (the Hartford region water utility), the schedule has been accelerated to require all WUCC regional plans to be completed on the same schedule as the comprehensive water plan, which is due to be finished in July 2017 and to be delivered to the legislature in January 2018.
The planning process is additionally complicated by the fact that all state and local plans are supposed to be consistent with OPM's plan of conservation and development.
The kick-off dates for the first meetings of the WUCCs are June 14, 15, and 17. The locations will in Brookfield, Middletown, Norwich. For more information check DPH's website: www.ct.gov/dph/WUCC.
Feb 17, 2016
Beginning in 2014, under Public Act 14-163, the state embarked on comprehensive water planning. The responsible party is the Water Planning Council (the WPC), which is made up of representatives of the four agencies that deal most with water: Department of Energy and Environmental Protection (DEEP), Department of Public Health (DPH), Public Utility Regulatory Authority (PURA), and Office of Policy and Management (OPM). PURA used to be the Department of Public Utility Control, but became part of DEEP in 2011 when energy was added to environment in the agency's mission under the direction of Gov. Dannel P. Malloy and DEEP Commissioner Dan Esty (2011).
The impetus for the creation of a statewide water plan in Public Act 14-163 came from the controversial proposal by the Hartford utility, the Metropolitan District Commission, to supply water from reservoirs in the Farmington River watershed across the state to UConn. This water transfer was opposed by many, and led to the question: Doesn't Connecticut have a plan for water allocation? The answer was, no.
In October 2014, the Water Planning Council approved a year-long contract (MOU) with UConn that assigned Vice President Tom Callahan to manage the first steps in creating a statewide water plan. UConn offered Mr. Callahan's services pro bono for two days per week. UConn is a major stakeholder in water-supply matters, which has the disadvantage of an appearance of conflict of interest and the advantage of expertise in water policy. In 2015, with the expiration of the MOU, Mr. Callahan resigned from UConn, and offered to continue to work on water planning as a volunteer. The Water Planning Council welcomed this offer, and Mr. Callahan has continued his service.
By statute, the WPC must appoint and consult with a multi-stakeholder Advisory Group. Since 2001, this Advisory Group has worked on water research and recommendations for management. The group is typically chaired by one representative of water supply interests and one environmental advocate. At this time, the chairs come from Connecticut Water Company (Maureen Westbrook) and Rivers Alliance of Connecticut (Margaret Miner).
Early in 2015, the Water Planning Council created a Steering Committee specifically to work on the state water plan. The Steering Committee is also a multi-stakeholder committee, similar to the Advisory Group but with a broader range of expertise. The Steering Committee includes the Water Planning Council and representatives of the Advisory Group. Here are the members: Beth Barton, Day Pitney; John Betkoski, WPC Member, PURA; Larry Bingaman, South Central CT Regional Water Authority; Ellen Blaschinski, WPC Member, DPH; Chris Clark, Mohegan Tribe; Virginia de Lima USGS - scientist emerita; Samuel Gold, Lower CT River Valley COG; Bart Halloran, Metropolitan District Commission; Elin Katz, Office of Consumer Counsel; David LeVasseur, WPC Member, OPM; Gene Likens, Cary Institute of Ecosystem Studies; Andrew Lord, Lord Law LLC; Joe McGee, The Business Council of Fairfield County; Margaret Miner, Advisory Group Member, Rivers Alliance of CT; Robert Moore, Policy Workgroup Chair; Susan Stratton Sayre, Smith College, Economics; Michael Sullivan, WPC Member, DEEP; Maureen Westbrook, Advisory Group Member, Connecticut Water Company; Julie Zimmerman, Yale University, Environmental Engineering.
The Steering Committee has generated three important work groups that have provided information and recommendations relating to policy; water plans developed in other states; and science and technology. The Committee as a whole has not yet had the opportunity to take the lead on issues.
The planning process is moving forward on a tight timeline and a tight budget. The governor and General Assembly have approved $500,000 per year for two years via bonding. Judging from budgets in other states, this will be about half the support needed to collect data, do the policy and planning, and go through the approval process. More concerning is the risk that next year's funding will be diminished as a result of the state's ongoing budget woes.
The plan is supposed to be completed in 2017 for submittal to the General Assembly in January 2018. That leaves less than two years to complete a tremendous volume of work. To avoid the time-consuming state process for hiring contractors, the Water Planning Council signed an MOU with a regional political entity, the New England Interstate Water Pollution Control Commission (NEIWPCC -- pronounced Newypik) to act as a general contractor. NEIWPCC's point person on the project is Jane Ceraso, a specialist in water protection. In February, NEIWPCC broadcast a request for qualifications. (To see the RFQ, click here.) One or more contractors and a scope of work should be approved before the "darling buds of May" appear. Or, we may learn that the scope of work and rate of pay is not adequate to attract capable experts. Then, adjustments will follow.
Simultaneously, water companies, represented in three regional Water Utility Coordinating Committees (WUCCs), are developing a statewide plan for water supply with oversight from the Department of Public Health. DPH's original concept was that the regional plans would be developed sequentially. However, the influential Hartford utility, the Metropolitan District Commission, insisted that the WUCC plans be finished by summer 2017 so that they could be taken into consideration in the statewide plan for all waters (as the law requires, actually). Rivers Alliance has repeatedly opposed this second planning track on the grounds that it will reduce conservation opportunities for natural streams, under an unstructured, exclusionary system of decision making and governance. (No customers, no environmental advocates, no members of the general public can be WUCC members.)
In sum, at this time, substantial progress has been made toward comprehensive water planning for Connecticut. The Water Planning Council is committed to achieving a useful, prudent plan. The pitfalls are numerous. But it is reasonable to believe that this effort will bring at least some good results and possibly a good, comprehensive plan.
To keep up to date on all water planning events and news, go to the excellent website created by OPM staffer Eric Lindquist for the Water Planning Council. (Click here.)