See the CT Water Planning Council website for links to the full plan, executive summary, or 2 page summary: www.ct.gov/water/site/default.asp
Calling all citizens: now's our chance to have input into the draft version of the CT State Water Plan. After a year long process, the plan is out. The Water Planning Council is interested in hearing what the citizens of CT have to say. The plan will be submitted to the CT legislature in January of 2018.
Rivers Alliance and the CT Fund for the Environment have created a special website for citizen input. It leads you step by step through the process of commenting and allows you to view comments made by others before you: www.ourwaterct.org/
Save Our Water CT is in the process of reviewing the 612 page plan, but here are some initial comments:
Disappointing News: The gavel will be coming down on this year's legislative session and unfortunately it won't include any regulatory oversight of the ever-growing water bottling industry. Earlier this winter, Save Our Water CT's bills were not allowed to come to a public hearing in the Environment Committee. Despite this setback, we worked hard to craft an amendment that would require bottlers using our municipal water to publicly apply for and receive approvals from the Dept. of Public Health....and to ensure that they would be subject to all applicable contingency plans for drought, including any restrictions felt necessary by the Commissioner of Public Health. Negotiations with water utilities, the Dept. of Public Health, environmental allies, and our legislative champions ultimately failed just days before the end of the session. Hard news, especially given our state's recent serious drought. Steadily climbing corporate profits from bottled water, the anti-regulatory atmosphere beginning to pervade our legislature, and the opposition of the water bottlers all played a role.... See more below...
Still No State Oversight of Large Water Bottlers
Save Our Water CT is disappointed that despite the state’s recent severe drought, legislation to provide reasonable oversight over large water bottling industries in Connecticut failed to be taken up in the 2017 General Assembly Session.
An amendment requiring the Department of Public Health to certify the adequacy of the water supply for bottlers using municipal water, and to allow the Commissioner of Public Health to issue restrictions in cases of severe drought, hit roadblocks in the final weeks of the session. Last minute opposition by the industry contributed to the breakdown of negotiations between the water utilities, the Department of Public Health, environmental allies, and legislative champions Sen. Beth Bye (D-West Hartford) and Rep. Derek Slap, (D-West Hartford)
“These would have been reasonable and appropriate measures,” Valerie Rossetti of Save Our Water CT’s steering committee, said. “Presently no environmental review or renewable permitting is required for massive water bottling operations which often transfer water out of native watersheds and across state boundaries.”
Outcomes on water-related legislation:
CONSUMER ADVOCATE ESTABLISHED AT THE MDC: The group is pleased to report however, that HB 6008, creating an independent consumer advocate at the Metropolitan District Commission, has now been signed into law by Governor Malloy. The bill was driven by citizen outrage at the District’s decision to provide 1.8M gallons of water each day at discounted water and sewer rates to Niagara Bottling. It authorizes the Office of the Consumer Council to appoint a utility lawyer, who will hopefully provide increased transparency at the “quasi-public” water utility. Though the discounted rates were rescinded last year, the MDC has publicized its intention to re-explore an industrial rate structure. https://www.cga.ct.gov/asp/cgabillstatus/cgabillstatus.asp?selBillType=Bill&which_year=2017&bill_num=6008
DEEP STRENGTHENS OVERSIGHT TO PROTECT STREAM FLOWS: Save Our Water CT also worked to support a newly amended Department of Energy and Environmental Protection regulation designed to help protect CT stream flow levels. Diversion permits will now be required to withdraw or transfer large amounts of water in certain watersheds affected by expanding or merging water utilities.
ACCESS TO WATER PLANNING INFORMATION STALLED: HB 7221, designed to allow access to non-security-sensitive water planning information, appears to once again have died in the legislature. Environmental advocates and citizens remain blocked from reviewing even one sentence of the massive 800-plus page MDC water supply plan, limiting their ability to provide input into decision-making for CT’s most valuable natural resource.
Thanks to Sen. Beth Bye, Rep. Derek Slap, and the many members of Save Our Water CT who stood up for their public trust waters, HB 6008: AN ACT ESTABLISHING AN INDEPENDENT CONSUMER ADVOCATE FOR THE MDC has now unanimously passed the CT General Assembly.
The advocate will be appointed by the Office of Consumer Counsel, be independent of the MDC board, and be financed by the MDC. It's a good first step in helping residents of MDC-served towns advocate for protection of their water and for wise decisions about its sale and use.
Hopefully, decisions such as the one to offer Niagara Bottling of CA water and clean water project charge rates lower than residential rates, will come to public attention BEFORE they become policy. Even though these discounts have been rescinded, watchful eyes will be needed to insure they don't reappear.
Save Our Water CT is also hard at work behind the scenes at the legislature. Its a frustrating session, complete with budget deadlocks and the political reality of a tied senate. BUT negotiations are ongoing with our legislative champions, the MDC, water utilities, and our environmental allies to create oversight of the large water-bottling industry in CT:
Bye Welcomes Committee Passage of Bill Requiring Independent Consumer Advocate For MDC
HB -6008 received a favorable vote from the Planning and Development Committee in the state legislature and will hopefully move on to consideration in the House of Representatives later this session. See: www.senatedems.ct.gov/bye-news/473-bye-170324#sthash.kaaH8WOR.vdIQkaC0.dpbs
The Metropolitan District Commission, which provides drinking water to 8 Hartford area municipalities, came under intense fire this past year. First, with its decision to offer water and clean water project charge discounts to multi-national California water bottler Niagara. Secondly, with its last minute demand for contingency funds from municipalities to avoid a damaged bond rating should the city of Hartford default on its ad valorem sewer payments.
The 29 member MDC board, comprised of both legislative appointees and commissioners appointed by its member towns, was criticized for its lack of communication with member town councils, and its lack of transparency with the public.
The consumer advocate, funded with $50,000/yr by the MDC, would be an attorney with experience in utility law and public advocacy. The position would provide a set of "eyes and ears" to the public on maters of consequence to the general public, both in member towns and in non-voting towns served by the MDC.
Sen. Beth Bye, Rep. Derek Slap, and Rep. David Baram all worked to forward the legislation out of committee. Save Our Water CT considers this a good first step in restoring public trust to the agency.
Will the public ever be allowed access to water planning information?
Thanks to Jon Lender, the secrecy surrounding water utility water supply plans is once again in the news. See; www.courant.com/politics/hc-lender-secret-water-20170313-column.html
published in Sunday March 19th in the Hartford Courant.
Water utilities are required to file supply plans every 8-10 years with the Department of Public Health, documenting what they estimate is their "safe yield" for water projected far into the future. The plans contain numerous details about where our water comes from and goes, drought triggers, and projections for future use. They also contain critical security information on their contingency plans, control systems, chemical storage locations, and other details that no one in the environmental community wishes disclosed. But the fears of terrorism involving the water supply system are now being used to withhold ALL details of water utility plans from the public or water planners. Analysis of our critical natural water resources, which may be increasingly under threat from climate change, is being removed from the pubic domain.
Negotiations have been ongoing since 2003 to develop a methodology for the water utilities, the Department of Public Health, and environmental water advocates to share this information in a way that both preserves critical infrastructure information and allows public access to planning information. One idea is to submit these plans in 2 forms: one closed to the public and another with agreed-upon public information. But each year talks have broken down leaving the plans essentially under lock and key.
HB 7221 in this year's legislature seeks to enact clear guidelines as to what water utility information IS actually critically secure and deserving of protection. That would allow the vast majority of the plan to be open to environmental planners and the public, without the lengthy fights that currently occur.
Val Rossetti of Save Our Water CT still has yet to see a single word of the MDC 2008 plan, requested back on March 1st of 2016. We're not yet holding our breath.
Public Hearings Monday March 13th 10:30 AM Legislative Office Building:
You may submit testimony by email until Thursday Feb. 2cd at 3 PM. Send email to:
Include the bill number and title in the subject line of your email.
Check this list of members of the environment committee: www.cga.ct.gov/env/
If your legislator is on the committee, please call him or her. Your voice is essential!
- A study bill (SB-753) is only a start, but is flawed and needs revision.
- We need to address the critical issues noted by SB-753 now, not leave the state open to more corporate water raids while a severe drought continues.
- We need drought protection so that our water is not sent out of state in bottles while we conserve.
- We need a permitting system for large water bottlers, so that we ensure that all of CT has enough water now and for the future- before giving it away to water bottling giants.
- We need a water rate structure that promotes conservation, not special discounts for large super-users which incentivizes over-use.
- Corporations profiting from Grade A CT water should pay their fair share to support clean water infrastructure, which residents have been doing for years.
Save Our Water CT
Citizen advocates acting to protect and conserve Connecticut's public trust waters.