Our first State Water Plan: developed after years of work, with input by multiple expert stakeholders and with unanimous approval by 4 state agencies (DEEP, DPH, OPM, PURA). It now awaits approval at the General Assembly. A fierce last minute lobbying campaign by the water utilities and business interests (among them MDC, CWWA, and CBIA) is attempting to strip out public input and delete recognition of water as a public trust resource. Will big $$ and scare tactics win again at the legislature? Or will our elected representatives respect citizen's concerns for our vital water resources? See the advocates' statement below.
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.
An important public hearing will be held on Tuesday Dec 20th at 9:30 AM at DEEP's 79 Elm St. offices. Up for public comment will be a proposed regulation concerning Water Diversion Exemptions, identified by Tracking Number: PR2016-053.
Currently a Water Utility Co-ordinating Committee (W.U.C.C.) process is underway on a state level, in which water utilities are laying claim to "Exclusive Service Areas" (ESAs). In any given ESA, only the single water utility of record will be able to provide public drinking water service. Previously unclaimed areas of the state are up for grabs as are areas where current water suppliers are relinquishing their current claims. Water utilitites wish to be able to move water into or out of these newly expanded "ESA's" without the need for the diversion permits, which necessitate environmental reviews. Without the need for environmental review, streams can be sucked dry or new water pipelines can be extended to areas far beyond where they were originally intended.
SaveOurWaterCT is in support of the proposed amendment to section 22a-377(b)-1 of the Regulations of Connecticut State Agencies to eliminate the exemption for use of registered water throughout an Exclusive Service Area. Essentially, water utilitites that expand their ESAs "will no longer be exempt from environmental permitting when they move water into newly ballooning and merged exclusive service areas" (see Rivers Alliance: www.riversalliance.org/Topics/Streamflow.cfm#registrations ).
Public comments will be accepted at the hearing or online until 4:30 pm on Dec 20th. They can be made on line either via email (Corrine.Fitting@ct.gov) or through the eRegulations site at eregulations.ct.gov/eRegsPortal/Search/RMRView/PR2016-053. Click the "COMMENT NOW" button. Please reference "Proposed Regulation Concerning Water Diversion Exemptions; Tracking Number PR2016-053 in your subject line on any emails. SUPPORT THE PROPOSED REGULATION.
Additional information on the new regulation is available at DEEP's website: www.ct.gov/deep/cwp/view.asp?a=4808&Q=588490&deepNav_GID=1511
Diversions are essentially withdrawals of water from streams, rivers, reservoirs, or well fields. In 1982-3 over 1800 were "grandfathered" in, representing over 75% of all water taken in the state. Newer "takings" require a DEEP permit in order to ensure there is a proper balance of water use for humans, agriculture, aquatic environment, recreation, and industry. Currently these grandfathered diversions contain more water than actually exists in certain watersheds. A way to review and wisely permit them is urgently needed as part of the state's water plan. This proposed regulation covers a tiny slice of the problem, but is an important way to begin to re-gain control of the process.
Save Our Water CT
Citizen advocates acting to protect and conserve Connecticut's public trust waters.