December 18, 2002
REGULATION OF UCONN WATER SYSTEM
By: Kevin McCarthy, Principal Analyst
You asked which agencies regulate the University of Connecticut (UConn) in its role as a water supplier to its campuses.
UConn is subject to regulation by the Department of Public Health (DPH) with regard to the quality and purity of its water supply. However, the attorney general has held that UConn is not subject to DPH regulation with regard to the development and disposition of watershed lands it owns. UConn is subject to regulation by the Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) with regard to large-scale diversions of surface or underground water. Like other public entities, UConn is not subject to rate regulation by the Department of Public Utility Control.
REGULATION OF UCONN WATER SYSTEM
Department of Public Health
In late 2000, UConn president Philip Austin sought an opinion from the attorney general as to the applicability of certain DPH statutes to the university, specifically whether UConn is a “water company” as defined by CGS § 25-32a. This definition is used in laws that restrict the development and disposition of watershed land owned by a water company that is located near a water supply source (class I and II land).
They also require a water company to obtain DPH approval to build or expand a water supply system and impose record-keeping and reporting requirements.
Attorney General Blumenthal issued his opinion on November 29, 2000. He noted that it is a long and settled principle of law that the state is not subject to a statutory requirement or responsibility unless the statute specifically refers to the state or its agencies. State v. Shelton, 47 Conn. 400 (1879), Charter Communications v. University of Connecticut, 2000 Conn. Super. LEXIS 770. He held that since the statute in question did not specifically refer to the state or its agencies, UConn was not a water company subject to the watershed land development restrictions. In contrast, Blumenthal stated that CGS § 25-32(a), which gives DPH jurisdiction over water purity and adequacy and related issues, does apply to the water UConn supplies. He stated that this provision specifically references the state (the text refers to public institutions).
This issue was the subject of legislation in the 2001 session. SB 1208 (file copy) would have subjected UConn, with regard to some of the watershed land it owns, to the laws that restrict development and disposition of such land. It also would have subjected UConn to some of the other laws that apply to water companies in the areas of well field mapping, water supply emergencies, and water supply planning (CGS §§ 22a-354c, 22a-357, 25-32b, 25-32d and 25-37). By implication, these laws do not currently apply to UConn. The Environment, Public Health, Education, and Energy and Technology committees favorably reported the bill, but the Senate recommitted it at the end of the session.
CGS § 22a-367 et seq. required large-scale diversions of water (generally more than 50,000 gallons from wells or surface waters during any 24-hour period) that predated July 1, 1982 to be registered with DEP. Subsequent diversions require a DEP permit. These requirements apply to any “person”, which includes the state and any instrumentality of the state, such as UConn, other than a municipality.
The Department of Public Utility Control primarily regulates privately-owned utilities, and does not regulate the rates charged by public entities.