The U.S. House of Representatives Appropriations Committee approved the fiscal year 2015 Interior and Environment Appropriations bill on July 15. The legislation, approved on a vote of 29-19, includes funding to begin implementation of a National Ground Water Monitoring Network (NGWMN).
Groundwater currently provides nearly half the nation’s drinking water and more than 40% of irrigation water, rising to even higher levels during drought. However, efforts to monitor this valuable, hidden resource currently fall short. An understanding of the groundwater’s status and trends is inhibited by a lack of national coverage, inadequate periods of record, and inconsistency in measurement frequency, according to a government report.
The timing and whether the full House will consider this appropriations bill is highly uncertain. Speculation now is a continuing resolution will be needed to fund the Interior and EPA until after the election, with the possibility of funding for fiscal year 2015 included in an omnibus bill that would be considered in a lame duck session.
Envisioned as a cooperative venture among federal agencies, states, regional water authorities, and tribes, the NGWMN would function as an integrated system of data collection and reporting and would provide the necessary data to more accurately monitor the nation’s groundwater resources.
In total, the bill includes $30.2 billion in base funding, an increase of $162 million above the fiscal year 2014 enacted level and a reduction of $409 million below President Barack Obama’s request. This includes a one-time payment of $442 million for “payments in lieu of taxes”—which provides funds to local communities with large areas of federal land to help offset losses in property taxes—and $4.1 billion to prevent and combat devastating wildland fires.