Norton Calls for Local Solutions
to Water Crises
Environmental News Service
DENVER, Colorado - Preventing conflict over chronic water
shortages must be addressed by local communities in long
range, cooperative planning efforts with state and federal
agencies, Interior Department Secretary Gale Norton told
Western officials today.
Speaking at a conference called "Water 2025: Preventing
Crises and Conflict in the West," Norton told attendees
that "long lasting solutions will come from the people
who must live with or learn to live without the water
Today's meeting is the first of nine consulting sessions
in Western cities aimed at expanding the dialog on ways
of preventing the water supply problems facing many communities.
Population growth is the major pressure on Western water
supplies as it increases the competition for a finite
supply among home owners, businesses, farmers, American
Indian tribes, and fish and wildlife. Sustained drought,
which currently affects much of the West, is adding further
strain on the region's water supply.
Norton said the aging water infrastructure of the West
must also be addressed, and communities must find agreements
before a crisis hits.
"Many water supply facilities continue to use 19th
century technology to attempt to meet 21st century problems,"
she said. "Some are 60 years old, while others have
been in service for almost a century. In some instances,
canals can lose up to 50 percent of their irrigation water
either through seepage or through old, inefficient control
Through the Water 2025 initiative, Norton says the federal
government has "assessed the situation and come up
with areas we consider to be hot spots with the potential
for future conflict over water."
There is a role for the federal government, the Interior
Department Secretary said, but "the hard work of
preventing crises and conflict will take place in meeting
rooms like these."
"For a long-lasting solution, we need everyone at
the table, state and local governments, tribes, and stakeholders,"
Norton said. "We are looking to states and localities
to take the lead. We can then help with technical expertise,
with facilitation support, and with seed money."
Norton added that federal agencies are striving to better
coordinate their efforts, citing a formal memo announced
Thursday between the Interior and Agriculture Departments
to create interagency Drought Action Teams to focus scarce
resources quickly where and when they are needed.