From the Office of Rep. Phil Haire
North Carolina suffered through a record-breaking drought in 2007 and the aftermath of that difficult time continues to influence our public policy. In addition to the immediate response to that crisis, a number of changes have been made that will improve our long-term approach to water planning. One of the decisions made in the House of Representatives was to establish a standing House Committee on Water Resources and Infrastructure so that water resource issues are examined more closely and more expertise is developed that area. The committee has been busy and closely considered a number of measures.
The following are some highlights of the legislation passed this year to improve our water systems and planning.
_ A new law (S.L. 2010-150, HB 1747) directs large community water systems and local governments that provide public water service to revise their local water supply plans when 80 percent of the water system’s available water supply (based on calendar year average daily demand) has been allocated or when seasonal demand exceeds 90 percent. The plans must address foreseeable future water needs. Local governments must normally develop and submit such plans to the Department of Environment and Natural Resources at least once every five years.
Grants and Loans
_ The state has modified its criteria for which water and sewer projects receive priority when applying for grants and loans. The changes in the law (S.L. 2010-151, HB 1744):
- Clarify that the repair or replacement of leaking waterlines is a priority in situations where the line repair or replacement is being done to either improve water conservation and efficiency or to prevent contamination.
- Give priority to local governments with more than 1,000 service connections over similarly sized units if they have an asset management plan.
- Establish that a high-unit-cost project has priority over lower-cost projects. In addition, the act establishes a sliding scale system for determining the priority given to projects that exceed the high-unit-cost threshold.
- Give priority to those projects that promote the consolidation, management, merger, or interconnection of water systems. If an applicant demonstrates it is not feasible for the project to include regionalization, the funding agency must assign the project the same priority as a project that includes regionalization.
- Direct each local government to develop and submit a local water supply plan to the Department of Environment and Natural Resources at least once every five years. The department must use the information in the plans to create a state water supply plan and must also identify potential conflicts among the various local plans and ways in which local water supply programs could be better coordinated.
- Require local governments to adopt minimum water conservation measures to respond to drought or other water shortage conditions, but allows local governments to adopt more stringent standards. The act gives priority to those projects that adopt more stringent water conservation measures.
_ The Department of Environment and Natural Resources has been directed to establish a task force to: (1) develop a statewide survey to assess the state’s water and wastewater infrastructure needs; (2) develop a plan for incorporating the information compiled from the United States Environmental Protection Agency surveys into the State Water Supply Plan; and (3) develop a plan for the creation and maintenance of a statewide water and wastewater infrastructure resource and funding database.
The act (S.L. 2010-144, HB 1746) also asks the department and the Local Government Commission to evaluate the costs and benefits of increasing the oversight of public water systems and wastewater. The agencies must report their findings and recommendations to the Legislative Study Commission on Water and Wastewater Infrastructure no later than November 1.
_ The Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services and the Department of Environment and Natural Resources have been asked to: (1) work with the North Carolina Farm Bureau Federation, other agricultural organizations, and farmers to develop a plan to identify and report on agricultural water infrastructure needs; (2) identify and encourage voluntary practices that conserve and protect water resources; and (3) design a cost-share program to assist farmers and agricultural landowners who implement best management practices to conserve and protect water resources related to agricultural use. The law (S.L. 2010-149, HB 1748) also requires that a report on their findings and recommendations be submitted to the Legislative Study Commission on Water and Wastewater Infrastructure no later than November 1.
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Rep. Haire and Legislative Assistant, Sara Jane Lennard,
may be reached at 300 N. Salisbury St., Room 639, LOB
Raleigh, NC 27603, 919/715-3005, firstname.lastname@example.org