Executive Order on Modernizing America’s Water Resource Management and Water Infrastructure

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On October 13, 2020, President Trump issued the Executive Order (EO) on Modernizing America’s Water Resource Management and Water Infrastructure. The goal of the EO is to streamline the management of federal water policy and make coordination among agencies managing water infrastructure more efficient. The EO established a Water Subcabinet of agency officials to coordinate water strategy and planning. The composition of the Water Subcabinet is outlined in the EO, and according to a press release from the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA):

The Water Subcabinet will be co-chaired by U.S. Department of the Interior (Interior) Secretary David Bernhardt and U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Administrator Andrew Wheeler, and will include senior officials from the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), the Department of Commerce (DOC), the Department of Energy (DOE), and the Department of the Army (Civil Works). The Water Subcabinet will work in close coordination with senior officials from the White House Council on Environmental Quality (CEQ), the Office of Management and Budget (OMB), and the Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP), and other federal agencies as appropriate.

Recent comments by the Association of California Water Agencies (ACWA) regarding the EO noted that the Water Subcabinet has already been operating in an informal manner, but now, “the Water Subcabinet will recommend actions to improve water quality, promote restoration activities and examine water challenges facing minority, low-income and rural communities. It will also work to upgrade the nation’s water infrastructure, improve public health and create jobs.”

The EO directs the Water Subcabinet, within 90 days of the date of the order, to identify all Federal interagency working groups and provide recommendations to the Chairman of the CEQ, the Director of OMB and the Director of OSTP on coordinating and consolidating these Federal interagency working groups. The EO further states that within 150 days of the date of the order, the Water Subcabinet shall identify and recommend actions and priorities to the Director of OMB, the Chairman of CEQ, and the Assistant to the President for Economic Policy to support integrated planning and coordination among agencies to maintain and modernize U.S. water infrastructure, including for drinking water, desalination, water reuse, wastewater, irrigation, flood control, transportation on our rivers and inland waterways, and water storage and conveyance.

Regarding state and local impacts, the EO also looks to improve interagency coordination and provide assistance and technical support to State, local, tribal, and territorial governments in order to enhance the recruitment, training, and retention of water professionals within drinking water, desalination, water reuse, wastewater, flood control, hydropower, and delivery and storage sectors.

A Fact Sheet outlining the key points of the EO can also be found here.

DISCLAIMER: Because of the generality of this update, the information provided herein may not be applicable in all situations and should not be acted upon without specific legal advice based on particular situations.

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