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Calendar No. 548
109th Congress Report
2d Session 109-305
VERMONT WATER RESOURCES STUDY
July 31, 2006.--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. 2054]
The Committee on Energy and Natural Resources, to which was
referred the bill (S. 2054) to direct the Secretary of the
Interior to conduct a study of water resources in the State of
Vermont, having considered the same, reports favorably thereon
with an amendment and recommends that the bill, as amended, do
The amendment is as follows:
On page 1, line 7, insert after ``shall'' the following:
``, in accordance with this Act and any other applicable
PURPOSE OF THE MEASURE
S. 2054 would authorize the United States Geological Survey
to undertake a water resources study in the State of Vermont.
BACKGROUND AND NEED
It is estimated that approximately sixty-six percent of
Vermont's population rely on groundwater for their drinking
water. Groundwater also provides a significant source of water
for industrial, environmental, and agricultural purposes.
Naturally-occurring groundwater contaminants including arsenic,
radioactivity, and radon have been found in the groundwater
and, according to the state government, pose a health risk to
Concerns have been raised regarding Vermont's groundwater
resources. Knowing more about the groundwater resources will
allow Vermonters to best mitigate the threat posed by
contaminants and to enhance planning efforts, including how
best to manage existing water resources. Beginning in the
1960s, the State of Vermont undertook steps to better
understand its groundwater resources. Since that time,
knowledge of Vermont's groundwater resources has become more
comprehensive and detailed.
While the data acquired by the State since the 1960s allows
for rudimentary aquifer mapping for parts of the State, lack of
adequate State funding has not allowed the State to obtain
information necessary to address potential problems. The study
authorized by S. 2054 will allow the State of Vermont to better
understand the nature of its groundwater resources and plan
S. 2054 was introduced on November 18, 2005, by Senator
Jeffords and referred to the Committee on Energy and Natural
Resources. The Subcommittee on Water and Power held a hearing
on S. 2054 on March 30, 2006. At the business meeting on May
24, 2006, the Committee on Energy and Natural Resources ordered
S. 2054 favorably reported with an amendment.
The Committee on Energy and Natural Resources, in open
business session on May 24, 2006, by a unanimous voice vote of
a quorum present, recommends that the Senate pass S. 2054, if
amended as described herein.
During consideration of S. 2054, the Committee adopted an
amendment which provides that the survey authorized by S. 2054
shall be conducted pursuant to applicable law.
Section 1, subsection (a) authorizes the Secretary of the
Interior, acting through the Director of the United States
Geological Survey and in coordination with the State of Vermont
to conduct a survey of water resources in the State.
Subsection (b) directs the Secretary to submit to the
Committee on Energy and Natural Resources of the Senate and the
Committee on Resources of the House of Representatives a report
describing the result of the study not later than two years
after the date of enactment of the act.
Subsection (c) authorizes such sums as necessary to carry
out this section.
COST AND BUDGETARY CONSIDERATIONS
The following estimate of costs of this measure has been
provided by the Congressional Budget Office:
S. 2054--A bill to direct the Secretary of the Interior to conduct a
study of water resources in the state of Vermont
S. 2054 would direct the Secretary of the Interior to
conduct a study of water resources in Vermont. The study, to be
completed within two years of the bill's enactment, would
include a survey of groundwater supplies available to
municipalities. Based on the cost of similar studies, CBO
estimates that carrying out the proposed study would cost the
U.S. Geological Survey about $6 million over the next few
years, assuming appropriation of the necessary amounts.
Enacting S. 2054 would not affect direct spending or revenues.
The bill contains no intergovernmental or private-sector
mandates as defined in the Unfunded Mandates Reform Act and
would impose no costs on state, local, or tribal governments.
The CBO staff contact for this estimate is Deborah Reis.
This estimate was 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. 2054. 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. 2054.
The testimony provided by the United States Geological
Survey at the Subcommittee hearing on S. 2054 in the 109th
Statement of Catherine L. Hill, Northeast Regional Hydrologist, United
States Geological Survey, Department of the Interior
Madam Chairman and Members of the Subcommittee, I am
Catherine L. Hill, Northeast Regional Hydrologist for Water for
the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS). I thank you for the
opportunity to provide the views of the Department of the
Interior (Department) on S. 2054, a bill to conduct a Vermont
water resources study.
The Department agrees that the goals of the bill are
commendable but has concerns with the bill. We note that
studies similar to this have been done by USGS in other States,
generally carried out within the USGS Cooperative Water
Program, which is a long- standing cost-sharing program using
Federal and State funds. Given the existing authorities for our
Cooperative Water Program, congressional authorization of this
study is not necessary.
S. 2054, VERMONT WATER RESOURCES STUDY
S. 2054 directs the Secretary of the Interior, acting
through the Director of the USGS and in coordination with the
State of Vermont, to conduct a study on water resources in the
State of Vermont. The role identified for the Department in
this bill is consistent with USGS's leadership role in
surveying and characterizing ground-water resources.
The bill requires a survey of ground-water supplies and
aquifers available for water supply by municipalities
throughout the State, as part of a study to determine whether
these supplies provide water of potable (drinkable) quality.
The USGS has a long history of conducting ground-water
assessments on both local and regional scales. In the 1950s and
1960s, studies were conducted across the Nation to provide a
basic understanding of geohydrologic conditions at a county-
level scale. In the 1980s, 25 regional aquifer systems were
studied in detail, including the aquifer systems in Vermont.
However, these studies provide a regional and national context
of ground water that are often not detailed enough for State
and municipal needs.
As stated, the goals of the S. 2054 can be met through
existing authorities, and many related activities are being
implemented on the ground in Vermont. USGS has been actively
working with the Vermont Geological Survey in the creation of a
new bedrock geologic map that is scheduled to be completed in
the next few years. This new geologic map will provide a
variety of information that can be used to help define ground-
water availability and quality. Map information will include
bedrock types that may be correlated with high yield wells or
bedrock types that may be associated with natural contaminants
(for example arsenic or radon). In 2003, USGS provided
information on possible approaches for ground-water assessment
and aquifer mapping to the State of Vermont for a report to the
State Legislature on the status of ground-water and aquifer
mapping. In this report, a plan for future statewide ground-
water and aquifer assessments was presented. This document
provides a foundation for how work proposed by this legislation
could be performed.
The USGS has extensive databases that would provide useful
information in evaluating potential ground-water resources in
Vermont. These databases include the location and
characteristics of most mineral occurrences throughout the
United States; geochemical characteristics of rocks, soils,
stream sediments, and water; long-term ground-water level and
stream flows; and water-use and well inventories.
The USGS also has a number of on-going studies that relate
to ground water in Vermont. USGS, through the Mineral Resources
Program and in cooperation with the U.S. Environmental
Protection Agency, is determining the water quality effects of
three abandoned mines on local streams and ground water.
Another USGS study, in cooperation with the Vermont Geological
Survey, is looking at the radionuclide content of wells in the
Barre West and Montpelier quadrangles. USGS is also analyzing
the presence of arsenic in bedrock wells throughout New England
as part of a project with the National Institutes of Health.
This work will identify the probability of bedrock wells having
detectable levels of arsenic. In addition, through the USGS
National Water-Quality Assessment Program, we are evaluating
how radon and uranium vary from aquifer to aquifer in the
northern portions of the United States, including Vermont.
In New Hampshire, USGS has already performed statewide
surficial and bedrock aquifer mapping and characterization.
This work, conducted through the USGS Cooperative Water
Program, occurred in the 1980s and 90s and now serves as the
benchmark for ground-water characterization in the State and is
the basis for State and local planning and resource protection
programs. We envision that a statewide aquifer mapping and
ground-water characterization effort in Vermont would be
similar in many respects to the New Hampshire effort.
Ground water is the source of water for two-thirds of
Vermont's residents. From 1950 to 2000, the amount of ground
water used in the State is estimated to have increased by at
least 60 percent. While Vermont is blessed with a major
surface-water supply source in Lake Champlain to serve its
largest cities, most communities, businesses, and homes away
from the Lake rely on ground water for their water supply.
The proposed legislation also requires an assessment of how
ground water recharges and interacts with surface water. This
is critical because ground water can be a major source of water
for streams, especially in headwater areas. Vermont's rivers
and streams are an important natural resource--providing
habitat for its trout and other fisheries and supplying flows
to its many lakes and ponds. As stated previously, USGS is
currently working with the States to provide a better
understanding of ground-water aquifers, the areas that
contribute to both ground- and surface-water systems, and how
current and future water demands could influence these systems,
will help decision makers ensure that sufficient supplies are
present for the multiple uses of Vermont's water resources.
In conclusion, the USGS concurs with the goals of the bill
to meet Vermont's need for a detailed ground-water assessment
and aquifer mapping program, but notes that there are already
ongoing efforts to address these goals. Such an effort would
help ensure long-term water supplies for its citizens,
businesses, industry, and natural features. However, we feel
that such a proposed study would take 5 or more years to
complete and that the 2-year time frame for completing the
study would not yield comprehensive results. We recommend that
studies of this type be conducted under the USGS Cooperative
Water Program, through a cost-share arrangement. The USGS looks
forward to working with the State of Vermont, particularly the
Vermont Geological Survey, in future ground-water resource and
Thank you, Madam Chairman, for the opportunity to present
this testimony. I will be pleased to respond to questions you
and other Members of the Subcommittee may 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. 2054, as