Following a controversial proposed pipeline that would divert water from the Farmington River basin to supply the town of Mansfield and the University of Connecticut with needed water, a new bill in the Conn. General Assembly aims to suspend such projects until a state plan is developed.
Rep. John Hampton (D—16th Dist.) has proposed a moratorium on all water diversion projects in the state until the proper planning is in place.
House Bill 5478:
AN ACT ESTABLISHING A STATE-WIDE MORATORIUM FOR WATER DIVERSIONS AND REQUIRING THE ESTABLISHMENT OF A STATE-WIDE WATER USE PLAN.
Be it enacted by the Senate and House of Representatives in General Assembly convened:
That the general statutes be amended to establish a state-wide moratorium on water diversions until a state-wide water use plan is developed and implemented.
Statement of Purpose:
To responsibly authorize water diversions in accordance with a state-wide water use plan.
"I firmly believe that we need to stop, look, and listen," Hampton said.
Hampton feels that a proposal by the Metropolitan District Commission to divert approximately 2 million gallons of water daily from the Farmington River basin could set a dangerous precedent for the environment and the state's economy.
"It's not smart environmental policy and it's not smart economically," Hampton said.
The bill already has support from Sen. Kevin Witkos (R—8th Dist.). Witkos has been a strong voice against the MDC proposal.
Before the bill makes it to the General Assembly for a vote it will first need support from the house environmental committee, Hampton said.
So far, Hampton has received strong support for the bill from his constituency but a water diversion moratorium isn't popular with everyone.
"I've spoken to UConn and I'm certainly sympathetic to their needs," Hampton said. "They'd like to see the bill not move through because their need is dire."
For Hampton, need is not an excuse to forego planning and disregard the long-term and short-term environmental impacts that water diversions bring.
"It's not just my concern about the Farmington River," Hampton said. "This is about all communities. Someday this could happen to UCONN but will they be in a position to help another community?"
UCONN officials say Hampton's bill is unnecessary and that state, regional, and independent councils to regulate water supply planning are already in place.
"What Rep. Hampton is trying to get at already exists," Jason Coite, environmental compliance analyst for UCONN, said.
"Independent water supply systems like UCONN come up with their own plans," Coite said. Those plans are developed under the guidance of the regional districts of the Water Utility Coordinating Committees, of which there are seven regions in the state.
The state committee was formed in 1985 to "maximize efficient and effective development of the state’s public water supply systems and to promote public health, safety and welfare," according to the Department of Public Health website.
Coite also referenced the state Water Planning Council as a resource when it comes to statewide water planning.
The council has four members from three different state agencies— the Department of Energy and Environmental Protection (DEEP); the Department of Public Health (DPH); and the Office of Policy and Management (OPM), according to the DEEP website.
The purpose of the council is to "identify issues and strategies which bridge the gap between the water supply planning process and water resources management in order that water can be appropriately allocated to balance competing needs while protecting the health, safety and welfare of the people of Connecticut and minimizing adverse economic and environmental effects," according to the WPC website.
Coite said the university feels that Hampton's bill will only prolong a process that already has the same requirements that he is trying to implement, and suggested that a lack of funding was the issue for the existing planning resources.
In the case of UCONN, time is extremely important.
"Even if we had our plan in place, it's still 3-5 years before we could implement it. To bridge those 3-5 years we have ample water supply, but beyond that it's a problem," Coite said.
"UCONN might not be the only institution affected by this bill," Coite said. "It could have some far-reaching affects on other communities."
The deadline for public comment on the the MDC proposal is Thursday Jan. 31.
UCONN has already posted public comments and letters they have reviewed regarding the proposal.
For more information about the MDC proposal, visit our MDC topic page.