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                                                        Calendar No. 28
109th Congress                                                   Report
                                 SENATE
 1st Session                                                     109-17

======================================================================



 
       UNITED STATES-MEXICO TRANSBOUNDARY AQUIFER ASSESSMENT ACT

                                _______
                                

                 March 7, 2005.--Ordered to be printed

                                _______
                                

   Mr. Domenici, from the Committee on Energy and Natural Resources, 
                        submitted the following

                              R E P O R T

                         [To accompany S. 214]

    The Committee on Energy and Natural Resources, to which was 
referred the bill (S. 214) to authorize the Secretary of the 
Interior to cooperate with the States on the border with Mexico 
and other appropriate entities in conducting a hydrogeologic 
characterization, mapping, and modeling program for priority 
transboundary aquifers, and for other purposes, having 
considered the same, reports favorably thereon without 
amendment and recommends that the bill do pass.

                         PURPOSE OF THE MEASURE

    The purpose of S. 214 is to authorize the Secretary of the 
Interior to cooperate with the States on the border with Mexico 
and other appropriate entities in conducting a hydrogeologic 
characterization, mapping, and modeling program for priority 
transboundary aquifers, and for other purposes.

                          BACKGROUND AND NEED

    The United States and Mexico share a 2,000 mile-long border 
that crosses multiple groundwater basins. Piecemeal assessments 
of aquifers have been performed by the U.S. Geological Survey 
and other entities over the last 50 years. However, assessments 
to date have included relatively little information on the 
Mexican side of the border, have not been integrated across 
multiple basins around large municipal areas, and have not 
included the surface water-groundwater interactions. 
Additionally, data collection and numerical analysis techniques 
and technology have greatly improved in recent years, resulting 
in a good opportunity to develop scientific tools of 
significant value to State and local water resource managers. 
Accordingly, S. 214 is intended to address the lack of 
binational consensus regarding the source and availability of 
future water supplies along the border by establishing a 
scientific program to assess priority transboundary aquifers 
comprehensively. This assessment should help State and local 
water planning efforts and avoid transboundary conflicts, 
particularly in rapidly expanding municipal areas along the 
border where demands on groundwater are increasing. The program 
will also increase the understanding of groundwater quality, a 
matter of increasing importance given that a lack of adequate 
wastewater treatment infrastructure is responsible for ongoing 
groundwater contamination.

                          LEGISLATIVE HISTORY

    S. 214 was introduced on January 31, 2005, by Senator 
Bingaman for himself and Senators Domenici and Kyl and referred 
to the Committee on Energy and Natural Resources. No hearings 
were held on the measure. At the business meeting on February 
9, 2005, the Committee on Energy and Natural Resources ordered 
S. 214 favorably reported.
    During the 108th Congress, a similar measure, S. 1957, was 
introduced by Senator Bingaman on November 25, 2003 and 
referred to the Committee on Energy and Natural Resources. 
Senators Domenici and Kyl were co-sponsors. The Subcommittee on 
Water and Power held a hearing on S. 1957 on May 19, 2004. S. 
Hrg. 108-618. The Committee on Energy and Natural Resources 
ordered S. 1957, as amended, favorably reported on June 16, 
2004. S. Rept. 108-297. S. 1957 passed the Senate by unanimous 
consent on September 15, 2004.

                        COMMITTEE RECOMMENDATION

    The Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources, in an 
open business meeting on February 9, 2005, by unanimous voice 
vote of a quorum present, recommends that the Senate pass S. 
214.

                      SECTION-BY-SECTION ANALYSIS

    Section 1 provides the short title, the ``United States-
Mexico Transboundary Aquifer Assessment Act.''
    Section 2 sets forth the purposes of the Act.
    Section 3 defines the terms used in the Act.
    Section 4 subsection (a) directs the Secretary to carry out 
the United States-Mexico transboundary aquifer assessment 
program to characterize, map, and model transboundary 
groundwater resources along the United States-Mexico border.
    Subsection (b) provides that the objectives of the program 
are to develop and implement an integrated scientific approach 
to assess transboundary groundwater resources.
    Subsection (c) designates the Hueco Bolson and Mesilla 
aquifers, the Santa Cruz River Valley aquifers as priority 
transboundary aquifers and directs the Secretary to designate 
additional priority transboundary aquifers using the criteria 
under subsection (b)(1) (A)(ii).
    Subsection (d) directs the Secretary to work with 
appropriate Federal agencies and other organizations to develop 
partnerships with, and receive input from, relevant 
organizations in Mexico to carry out the program.
    Subsection (e) provides that the Secretary may provide 
grants or enter into cooperative agreements and other 
agreements with the water resources research institutes and 
other Border State entities to carry out the program.
    Section 5 subsection (a) directs the Secretary to 
coordinate the activities carried out under the program with 
the appropriate water resource agencies in the Border States, 
any affected Indian tribe, any other appropriate entities that 
are conducting monitoring and metering activity of a priority 
transboundary aquifer.
    Subsection (b) prohibits the Secretary from initiating new 
field studies or analyses until consulting with and 
coordinating the activity with any water resource agencies that 
have jurisdiction over the aquifer.
    Subsection (c) directs the Secretary to work with 
appropriate entities to develop a study plan, timeline, and 
cost estimate for each priority transboundary aquifer to be 
studied under the program. Study plans shall take into 
consideration existing data and be consistent with State 
guidelines and goals.
    Section 6 states that this Act has no effect on the 
jurisdiction of a Border State with respect to managing surface 
or groundwater resources in the Border State, nor does the Act 
affect the water rights of any person or entity.
    Section 7 directs the Secretary to submit a report to the 
appropriate water resource agency in the Border States that 
describes activities carried out under the program, conclusions 
of the Secretary on the status of transboundary aquifers, and 
the level of participation of the Mexican partners.
    Section 8 subsection (a) authorizes $50 million to be 
appropriated for the Act for fiscal years 2006 through 2015.
    Subsection (b) requires that 50 percent of the funds made 
available for the Act shall be distributed to the appropriate 
local entities in the Border States and Mexico.

                   COST AND BUDGETARY CONSIDERATIONS

    The following estimate of costs of this measure has been 
provided by the Congressional Budget Office:

                                                 February 14, 2005.
Hon. Pete V. Domenici,
Chairman, Committee on Energy and Natural Resources,
U.S. Senate, Washington, DC.
    Dear Mr. Chairman: The Congressional Budget Office has 
prepared the enclosed cost estimate for S. 214, the United 
States-Mexico Transboundary Aquifer Assessment Act.
    If you wish further details on this estimate, we will be 
pleased to provide them. The CBO staff contact is Deborah Reis.
            Sincerely,
                                       Douglas Holtz-Eakin,
                                                          Director.
    Enclosure.

S. 214--United States-Mexico Transboundary Aquifer Assessment Act

    Summary: S. 214 would establish a program within the 
Department of the Interior to study and assess acquifiers 
(i.e., groundwater reserves) that are located under the 
boundaries of Mexico and the bordering States of Arizona, 
California, New Mexico, and Texas. The U.S. Geological Survey 
(USGS) would coordinate the program and would provide grants 
and technical assistance to government agencies and other 
organizations in Mexico and the four States for projects that 
address groundwater issues. The bill would authorize the 
appropriation of $50 million over the 2006-2015 period for 
Federal projects, technical assistance, and grants.
    Assuming appropriation of authorized amounts, CBO estimates 
that implementing S. 214 would cost $2 million in fiscal year 
2006 and $21 million over the 2006-2010 period. We estimate 
that an additional $29 million would be spent after 2010, 
including $25 million appropriated between 2011 and 2015. 
Enacting the bill would not affect direct spending or revenues.
    S. 214 contains no intergovernmental or private-sector 
mandates as defined in the Unfunded Mandates Reform Act (UMRA) 
and would impose no costs on State, local, or tribal 
governments. Agencies in the four border States could receive 
grant funds if they choose to participate in this program.
    Estimated cost to the Federal Government: The estimated 
budgetary impact of S. 214 is shown in the following table. The 
costs of this legislation fall within budget function 300 
(natural resources and environment).

----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
                                                                    By fiscal year, in millions of dollars--
                                                               -------------------------------------------------
                                                                  2006      2007      2008      2009      2010
----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
                                  CHANGES IN SPENDING SUBJECT TO APPROPRIATION

Authorization Level...........................................         5         5         5         5         5
Estimated Outlays.............................................         2         4         5         5         5
----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

    Basis of estimate: For this estimate, CBO assumes that S. 
214 will be enacted near the end of fiscal year 2005 and that 
the $50 million authorized to be appropriated for the proposed 
aquifer program will be appropriated evenly over the next 10 
years. As provided in the legislation, one-half of each year's 
appropriation would be awarded to laboratories, governmental 
agencies, universities, and other entities in Mexico or the 
four border states. The remaining half would be used by the 
USGS to carry out the federal component of the program that 
would include program coordination, data integration, and 
technical assistance.
    Intergovernmental and private-sector impact: S. 214 
contains no intergovernmental or private-sector mandates as 
defined in UMRA and would impose no costs on state, local, or 
tribal governments. Agencies in the four border states could 
receive grant funds if they choose to participate in this 
program.
    Estimate prepared by: Federal Costs: Deborah Reis; Impact 
on State, Local, and Tribal Governments: Marjorie Miller; and 
Impact on the Private Sector: Selena Caldera.
    Estimate approved by: Peter H. Fontaine, Deputy Assistant 
Director for Budget Analysis.

                      REGULATORY IMPACT EVALUATION

    In compliance with paragraph 11(b) of rule XXVI of the 
Standing Rules of the Senate, the Committee makes the following 
evaluation of the regulatory impact which would be incurred in 
carrying out S. 214. The bill is not a regulatory measure in 
the sense of imposing Government-established standards or 
significant responsibilities on private individuals and 
businesses.
    No personal information would be collected in administering 
the program. Therefore, there would be no impact on personal 
privacy.
    Little, if any, additional paperwork would result from the 
enactment of S. 214.

                        EXECUTIVE COMMUNICATIONS

    The testimony provided by the United States Geological 
Survey during the Subcommittee hearing on S. 1957 in the 108th 
Congress follows:

 Statement of Charles G. Groat, Director, U.S. Geological Survey, U.S. 
                       Department of the Interior

    Madam Chairman and Members of the Subcommittee, thank you 
for the opportunity to participate in this hearing to discuss 
the important role of water in the U.S. -Mexico Border Region 
and to provide the Administration's views on S. 1957, the 
``United States-Mexico Transboundary Aquifer Assessment Act.'' 
The Administration supports the provisions of S. 1957, ``The 
United States-Mexico Transboundary Aquifer Assessment Act,'' 
however, we note that we currently are undertaking some work in 
the areas covered by the bill and that no new authorities are 
needed. The program authorized in this bill would need to 
compete among the Survey's other priorities for funding.


                               BACKGROUND


    The international border region of the United States and 
Mexico (border region) has, during the past decade, experienced 
significant economic expansion accompanied by rapid population 
growth and urban development. The removal of international 
trade barriers quickly transformed the region's several small 
to mid-size cities into some of the fastest growing population 
centers in both countries. As a result, the people residing on 
both sides of the border now face numerous complex social, 
political, economic, infrastructure, public health, natural 
resource, and environmental-quality challenges. Along the 
entire length of the mostly arid international border region, 
perhaps the greatest challenge is how to effectively address 
the need for safe, sustainable supplies of good quality water 
for public, industrial, and agricultural uses, while 
maintaining a delicate balance with the needs of a very fragile 
natural-resource system.
    The limited surface-water supplies along the border have 
been allocated for several decades under international treaties 
and domestic laws. However, allocation of ground water in the 
border region is poorly regulated because little is known about 
its availability, sustainability, and quality; about how ground 
water interacts with surface- water bodies; and about the 
susceptibility of ground water to contamination. Ground water 
also is an important source of life-sustaining base flow to 
many streams and essential for maintaining critical aquatic 
habitats.
    Ground-water pumping has lowered the water table, depleted 
aquifers, and reduced the base flow of many streams thus 
decreasing the quantity of water available to support critical 
riparian habitats. Excessive ground-water pumping in some major 
urban centers, such as in the El Paso/Juarez metropolitan 
region, has caused land subsidence that has damaged homes and 
essential urban infrastructure. In addition to the effects of 
ground- and surface-water depletion, degradation of water 
quality has reduced habitat suitability for the region's 
diverse biota. The problems associated with limited water 
quantity and competing uses of water also have resulted in 
impaired and degraded water quality and serious issues related 
to human health on both sides of the border. Water quantity and 
quality will most likely be the determining and limiting 
factors that ultimately control future economic development, 
population growth, and human health along the United States-
Mexico border.


                                S. 1957


    S. 1957 directs the Secretary of the Interior to establish 
a United States-Mexico Transboundary Aquifer Assessment Program 
to systematically assess priority transboundary aquifers and 
provide the scientific foundation necessary for State and local 
officials to address pressing water resource challenges in the 
border region. The bill further directs the Secretary of the 
Interior to implement this program in cooperation with the 
Border states as well as with other appropriate entities, 
including affected Indian tribes.
    The proposed, collaborative scientific investigations and 
research efforts would address critical water supply, 
environmental, and natural-resource issues in the border 
region, and contribute to an improved understanding of the 
relations between the border region's many water, natural-
resource, biological, and human-health related issues. We agree 
that a multi-discipline, binational, scientific approach is 
needed to address these complex, interrelated transboundary 
issues. Additionally, these studies would develop and document 
the tools, scientific methodologies, and procedures for 
collecting and integrating hydrologic, geologic, biologic, and 
other spatial data into a binational geographic information 
system for analysis and modeling applications.
    S. 1957 objectives include expanding existing agreements 
between the USGS, Border states, State Water Resources Research 
Institutes, and appropriate authorities in the United States 
and Mexico to conduct joint investigations; document, manage, 
and share data; and carry out the necessary binational work 
efforts. Such collaboration would produce timely, widely 
accepted scientific products and understanding of each priority 
binational aquifer that is needed by water and natural-resource 
managers to effectively accomplish their missions.
    The role identified for the Department of the Interior in 
this bill is consistent with the USGS leadership role in 
monitoring, interpretation, research, and assessment of the 
health and status of the water and biological resources of the 
Nation. As the Nation's largest water, earth, and biological 
science, and civilian mapping agency, the USGS provides the 
largest single non-regulatory hydrologic investigative and 
research capability in the Nation.
    This proposed scientific collaboration by Federal, State, 
Tribal, and academic institutions touches on many of the 
interdisciplinary core competencies of the USGS. At its heart, 
the proposed collaboration would effectively capitalize on the 
collective scientific capability and resources of the 
partnering institutions. The integration of this relevant 
science would address the most pressing and complex natural 
resource and environmental problems in these very fragile 
landscapes and complex ecosystems.
    The USGS has been active in a number or relevant programs 
and investigations in the arid southwest and hence has a 
working knowledge of proven methods and innovative technologies 
for effectively characterizing, monitoring, and mapping the 
border region's ground-water resources. We believe we have the 
authority to implement the activities called for in the bill 
and would continue to provide resources to address the goals of 
the S. 1957, provided these activities successfully compete 
against other USGS priorities. In FY 2004, roughly $500,000 
will be spent on such on-the-ground activities by USGS. The 
President's FY 2005 Budget sustains this funding level. USGS 
scientists working from offices in each of the four Border 
states actively participate in these programs and 
investigations, and are called upon by the States and border 
communities to provide essential technical insight and 
understanding for solving critical water supply and natural-
resource problems. Our scientists serve on a large number of 
relevant committees, task forces, and advisory groups in the 
border region. Regional coordination and communication of USGS 
programs and activities along the international border is 
further enhanced internally through our Border Strategy Team as 
well as within the Department of the Interior as a result of 
our active participation on the U.S.-Mexico Field Coordination 
Committee.
    Talking with our partners in the Border states and 
communities, in the other Interior Bureaus, and other Federal 
agencies, as well with scientists and government officials in 
Mexico, it is widely acknowledged that the lack of a 
standardized, binational database on the availability, use, and 
quality of transboundary ground-water resources is perhaps the 
most significant impediment in addressing the Border region's 
numerous complex water-supply and natural-resource challenges. 
The lack of basic inventory and monitoring information 
pertaining to border water resources and water-dependent 
environments prevents a comprehensive understanding of 
watershed and regional processes and issues, and hinders the 
ability of science to provide the essential predictive 
capability to characterize or describe potential cause and 
effect relations associated with alternative land and water use 
and management actions.
    The program and investigations called for in this bill 
would support the development and maintenance of such a 
standardized, binational hydrologic database and associated 
data analysis tools. Early into the program, it would be 
essential that binational consensus be reached on common 
investigative approaches, common field data collection 
protocols, laboratory methodologies, and data management, 
documentation, and reporting systems. Once these technical 
issues are resolved, it would be much easier to streamline the 
treaty requirements related to the review and public release of 
impartial, transboundary scientific data. Such consensus has 
been reached in the past for transboundary investigations 
having limited scope. Obtaining this consensus for the entire 
Border region would greatly enhance transboundary scientific 
collaboration in the future.


                                SUMMARY


    The proposed investigations and pertinent research efforts 
authorized by S. 1957 would address critical water, 
environmental, and health issues in the Border region and 
contribute to a more comprehensive understanding of the 
relations between the region's many water, natural-resource, 
biological, and health related issues. It is important that a 
bi-national, multi-discipline scientific approach be taken to 
address these interrelated issues. Additionally, these 
binational studies would develop and document the tools, 
methodologies, and procedures to collect and integrate 
hydrologic, biologic, and other spatial data into a geographic 
information system for analysis and modeling applications.
    Thank you, Mr. Chairman, for the opportunity to present 
this testimony. I will be pleased to answer questions you and 
other Members of the Subcommittee might have.

                        CHANGES IN EXISTING LAW

    In compliance with paragraph 12 of rule XXVI of the 
Standing Rules of the Senate, the Committee notes that no 
changes in existing law are made by the bill S. 214, as ordered 
reported.