WASHINGTON – U.S. Senators Ben Cardin (D-Md.) and John Boozman (R-Ark.), both members of the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee, have introduced the Water Resources Research Amendments Act (WRRA/S. 2164), a bill to reauthorize federal grant funding for water resources research institutes in all 50 states plus the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico, Guam, and the U.S. Virgin Islands. Each state and territory has a water institute located at a land grant or other university designated by its governor that conducts important research on state and regional water challenges. Water Research Institutes also provide training for hydrologists and other water-related scientists and engineers, and fund public outreach and education on water issues.
“Extreme weather has increased the frequency of floods and droughts, causing more severe water issues nationwide. The research being done by scientists in every state looks at these new difficulties as well as chronic issues affecting availability, stability and public health. Our goal is to ensure that everyone in this country has clean, safe water at home and at work,” said Senator Cardin. “Clean water and resilient infrastructure are ever more critical for production of resources, economic stability, and the health and well-being of every person and business in this country.”
“Access to safe and clean water is critical to the livelihood of every American. Research conducted by the Arkansas Water Resources Center and its sister institutions around the country helps manage this vital resource. This bill will provide the means needed to solve real-world problems so we can effectively meet the water demands of our communities,” Senator Boozman said.
The Cardin-Boozman bill amends the Water Resources Research Act of 1984 to ease the burden on cash-strapped local jurisdictions by creating a 1:1 threshold for matching grants. It also provides greater accountability by aligning five-year grant funding with five-year evaluations and annual reporting.
“The National Institutes of Water Resources (NIWR) applauds Senators Cardin and Boozman for introducing the Water Resources Research Amendments Act to reauthorize this important program at USGS. Across the nation, the institutes collaborate with over 150 state agencies and more than 160 local and municipal offices to deliver needed research and planning in areas such as combating harmful algal blooms, mitigating drought effects, and protecting against soil erosion. We look forward to working with the senators’ offices to advance this program,” said Dr. Daniel Devlin, President, National Institutes of Water Resources.
“I thank the Senators for their strong support of water resources research. Funds from this federal/state partnership have addressed Maryland’s diversity, from farms to forests to cities, from the Chesapeake Bay to the Appalachians. Researchers have developed methods to treat dairy manure while producing methane as a source of renewable energy, to control urban runoff with green roofs and constructed wetlands, and to better communicate flood risk to citizens of all walks of life. They are investigating erosion, extreme precipitation, wetland processes, legacy contaminants, and intersex fish. With the support of this program, fundamental understanding and innovative techniques will continue to protect human health, environmental integrity, and economic sustainability in Maryland and across the country,” said Dr. Kaye Brubaker, Director of the Maryland Water Resources Research Center.
“In Arkansas, we have used these funds to research emerging issues like harmful algal blooms, the use of irrigation strategies like alternative wet and drying in rice, and state agencies wanting to prioritize where to invest resources to improve water quality. In 2018, the Arkansas Water Resources Center funded five research projects and with the increase in funds our institute and others across the country will be able to accomplish even more – these funds will focus on the issues that emerge that our state needs to be able to address,” said Dr. Brian E. Haggard, Director of the Arkansas Water Resources Center.
The text of the Water Resources Amendments Act (WRRA) can be found here.
The bill updates the level of authorization for the section 104(b) grants from $7.5 million to $8.25 million. The heart of the WRRA program is the 104(b) grant. These grants to the institutes have stagnated over the recent years, just as states and regional authorities are needing more and more assistance from these entities. Additional funds will not only allow institutes to train more students to work in STEM fields, but also help meet the research needs of states facing increasing droughts, algal blooms and floods. The increased number more closely matches the level of the last authorization bill.
The legislation also changes the level of authorization for the section 104(g) grants from $1.5 million to $1.75 million. The 104(g) grants address water issues of national significance. As a multitude of research needs have crossed state lines, these grants help augment the base program awards. The current funding amount only allows for 2-3 grants per year, despite increasing national water challenges. The increased amount will allow more grant applications to be funded.