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Calendar No. 28
109th Congress Report
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
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.
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.
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
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.
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
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
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
No personal information would be collected in administering
the program. Therefore, there would be no impact on personal
Little, if any, additional paperwork would result from the
enactment of S. 214.
The testimony provided by the United States Geological
Survey during the Subcommittee hearing on S. 1957 in the 108th
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.
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
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
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-
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
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.
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