On Tuesday, President Trump signed an Executive Order (E.O.) on “Modernizing America’s Water Resource Management and Water Infrastructure.” The order calls for the creation of a “subcabinet office” to focus on improving coordination between federal agencies that have responsibility for water-related issues. The Department of Interior and the Environmental Production Agency, Secretary David Bernhardt and Administrator Andrew Wheeler, respectively, have been charged with leading the interagency sub-cabinet office whose primary task will be to “streamline the decision-making processes” to improve water supply, reliability and address ongoing wat er infrastructure needs. See the EPA press statement here.
Specifically, the E.O. aims to provide "abundant, safe, and reliable" water supplies. It also seeks to provide a venue for those federal agencies that have overlapping responsibilities for water management to reconcile them as well as to streamline the approval process.
Among the priorities set out by the order is to increasing water storage , with a focus on the West U.S., including California’s Westlands Water District, the nation’s largest agricultural water district. It also addresses water issues related to the Great Lakes and Everglades. This E.O. follows on a couple of others issued by the President affecting water in the West.
Many observers view this action as formalizing needed cross-agency coordination; however, almost predictably, critics pointed to concerns that this benefits water users at the expense of the environment. Meanwhile, water agencies and their farm constituency applauded the action as they work to balance the needs of users with the ecosystem improvements that can create better habitat values.