Gleick Testifies Before Congress on Need for Integrated National Water Actions

For Immediate Release: March 4 , 2009

(Washington, D.C.) Dr. Peter Gleick, president of the Pacific Institute in Oakland, Calif. and one of the world’s leading experts on water, testifies before Congress today in support of bill HR 1145. Introduced by Science and Technology Committee Chairman Bart Gordon (Tennessee), the bill provides for coordination of national research and development on water and efforts to ensure adequate water supplies in the future.

Gleick’s message for Congress is that the time is ripe to implement an integrated and comprehensive national water strategy as we face new water challenges in climate change, new pollutants, and decaying infrastructure: “We know what we need to do; what is needed is the funding and effort to do it.”

“Effective twenty-first century water planning in the United States is a critical issue,” said Gleick. He delineated pressing needs for better and more coordinated responses and funding on the federal level to address national and international water issues, to perform regular surveys of water research activities and priorities, and to focus on a long-term research agenda and key water budget decisions.

Gleick testified that there has been confusion over authority among 25 federal agencies with a hand in water management – and insufficient funds allocated to protect and manage the nation’s water resources. As a consequence, old water legislation has not been updated to account for the realities of the 21st century, and the U.S. is not utilizing recent advances in scientific and technical understanding of both water problems and solutions.

“No more calling for a new assessment of need; priorities for federal water research have already been clearly, and comprehensively, laid out,” said Gleick. “It is time to move from recommendation to action.”

According to Gleick, what is key is the will to allocate funding for coordinated water research and management. “Whether we strengthen the existing Subcommittee on Water Availability and Quality or establish a new Commission, a coordinating body for national water research must have an explicit budget of its own.”

Gleick also expressed the urgency to evaluate both the implications of climate change for the nation’s water resources and the appropriate technologies and water management strategies for coping with unavoidable climate impacts. Part of that effort is calling for a National Water Census that includes comprehensive information on water use and is widely disseminated and easily available.

“While many water issues remain local, and need to be handled locally, the national government must step up to the effective role it can play – both here and abroad,” said Gleick. “Globally, the failure to meet basic human and environmental needs for water is the greatest development disaster of the 20th century. We have the capacity and responsibility to be a leader on this front.” Gleick’s complete testimony can be found here:

Based in Oakland, California, the Pacific Institute is a nonpartisan research institute that works to create a healthier planet and sustainable communities. Through interdisciplinary research and partnering with stakeholders, the Institute produces solutions that advance environmental protection, economic development, and social equity – in California, nationally, and internationally.