After 18 Years, Connecticut Finally Has a State Water PlanJune 7, 2019
The legislature on June 5, 2019 finally ratified the State Water Plan, a technical and policy document 4 years in the making and 18 years in the planning since the legislature first required a water plan in 2001. According to the CT Dept. of Public Health, the State Water Plan lays out a framework for managing Connecticut’s water into the future and for achieving balance with human and environmental needs as climate trends emerge and new needs develop. It addresses the quality and quantity of water for drinking, ecology, recreation, business, industry, agriculture, energy, and wastewater assimilation.
I have been seeking creation and adoption of a State Water Plan since 2001. We have had numerous warnings of the fragility of our water resources, including drying up of rivers such as the Fenton at UConn and the Shepaug in northwest CT. It was clear to me that the state needed to apply science and conservation to this challenge to ensure we have sufficient clean water for all the state’s needs well into the future.
The legislature established the Water Planning Council (WPC) in 2001 to bring together multiple state agencies that had jurisdiction over water. One significant roadblock to water management was the separation of water regulation among multiple state agencies, which the Council was designed to solve.
Following a new threat to another state river, the Farmington, legislators passed Public Act 14-163, directing the WPC to create the plan that would help planners, regulators, and lawmakers make decisions about managing Connecticut’s water in a manner that is consistent throughout the state. Until we gave them funding to do the analysis, the plan wasn’t moving. The completed plan reflects the input of various stakeholders, committee members and public participants. The council held public hearings on the draft plan across the state in 2017.
The Council presented a final document to the Governor and legislative committees in 2018. I said the phrase “water is a public trust” in the plan which caused some disagreement and a one year delay in legislative approval. In 2019, legislators with the help of attorneys in Gov. Lamont’s staff crafted language to make clear the statutes decide any perceived conflict between the plan and the statutes.
The WPC is comprised of four members: John W. Betkoski (Chair), Vice Chairman, Public Utilities Regulatory Authority; Garrett Eucalitto, Undersecretary, Office of Policy and Management; Betsey Wingfield, Deputy Commissioner, Department of Energy and Environmental Protection; and Lori Mathieu, Drinking Water Section Chief, Department of Public Health.
I worked with colleagues including Reps. John Hampton (D-Simsbury), Jonathan Steinberg (D-Westport) and Sen. Mary Abrams (D-Meriden) and clean water groups including Rivers Alliance, CT Fund for the Environment and Citizens Campaign for the Environment to pass the plan, said Connecticut now joins a small number of states in the U. S. with science-based water plans.
A copy of the plan and associated resources can be found at www.ct.gov/water