Rep. William Daniel suggested that Louisiana needs a water-use policy that will protect drinking water for residents and control industrial uses of ground water because water resources could be as important to the state's future as oil and gas used to be, reported an article in The Advocate.
"We had an oil-and-gas heyday in this state, and now we wonder where the money went," Daniel told the House Committee on the Environment. "Ultimately, water will be infinitely more valuable."
The HB1020 is aimed at creating a way to address immediate water-use issues while forcing the state to come up with a long-term water-use plan by 2003. The committee endorsed his bill with no objection from any committee member and continues on to the full House.
Daniel said that water-rich states such as Louisiana should have an advantage over water-poor states when it comes to attracting businesses and people in the years ahead.
"If we have plentiful supplies of water, industries will want to locate here, people will want to come here," Daniel said.
HB1020 would create a nine-member Ground Water Management Commission controlled by the governor that would have the authority to make targeted decisions with duties such as
• Determine areas of the state where drinking-water aquifers are in danger of being overused and then regulate those areas.
• Draft a long-term water policy for presentation to the Legislature in 2003, including addressing water being piped or shipped out of Louisiana for sale in other states.
HB1020 makes human consumption and health a priority while farming and industry would be equal.
Sen. Fred Hoyt noted that much of attention to water policy is the result of controversy over a power plant planned in the Eunice area. The joint venture by Cleco Corp. and Calpine will reportedly use up to eight million gpd of drinking-quality water from the Chicot aquifer to cool the power plant.
Hoyt and Daniel want a commission to hammer out long-term policy recommendations over the next two years to deal with pumping in areas where severe depletion is possible.
Rep. Lelon Kenney said the farm community is "scared to death" about what a water-use policy might mean.
Kenney said he has six wells on his farm but that they tap an aquifer that is fed by the Mississippi River and is in no danger of depletion.
Daniel said his bill would not exempt any existing wells from oversight and regulation.