OLR Bill Analysis

sSB 422 (File 450, as amended by Senate "A")*

AN ACT CONCERNING RESIDENTIAL WATER RATES, PUBLIC DRINKING WATER SUPPLY EMERGENCIES AND SELLERS OF BOTTLED WATER.

SUMMARY:

This bill increases the state's oversight of entities selling or bottling water diverted from the state. Specifically, it requires certain entities that begin diverting water from the state after June 1, 2017 for purposes of selling or bottling the water to obtain a water diversion permit from the Department of Energy and Environmental Protection (DEEP).

The bill makes two changes to the state Water Policy Council's activities, including (1) expanding the scope of the state water plan it develops to include recommendations on certain water diversions and water company rates and rate-setting practices and (2) requiring the council to report to the legislature, by September 30, 2017, on water diversions and any modifications necessary to comply with the state water plan.

The bill requires the Department of Public Health (DPH) commissioner, when implementing water use restrictions during a public drinking water supply emergency, to order that water sales to residential customers for essential residential use be given priority over sales to commercial water bottling companies exporting water out of the state during the emergency. Existing law gives the DPH commissioner broad authority to mandate water use restrictions during such an emergency, including allowing or ordering the implementation of water conservation practices. The bill specifies that these may include local, regional, or statewide practices.

Lastly, the bill requires water companies to implement certain drought metrics and comply with all water use restrictions the DPH commissioner orders during a public drinking water supply emergency.

*Senate Amendment “A” adds the provisions on (1) water diversion permits; (2) the state water plan; (3) the Water Planning Council reporting requirement; (4) local, regional, or statewide water conservation practices; and (5) water company drought metrics and water use restrictions. It eliminates a provision establishing certain water and sewer rate restrictions for licensed water bottlers.

EFFECTIVE DATE: Upon passage

WATER DIVERSIONS

By law, a diversion is any activity that causes, allows, or results in the withdrawal from, or alteration of, the flow of water in the state (such as wells, reservoirs, watercourses, and other bodies of water). The law generally requires anyone wanting to establish a water diversion to apply for a permit from DEEP, which has to consider specific criteria and standards including the diversion's effect on existing and planned water uses and public water supply needs, its relationship to economic development, and possible alternatives to diversion. Specific types of water diversions are exempt from the permit requirement, including withdrawals of 50,000 gallons or less of water from wells or surface water in any 24-hour period. In addition, any water diversion maintained on or before July 1, 1982, is exempt from the permit requirement if the owner registered it with DEEP by July 1, 1983.

Beginning June 1, 2017, the bill requires a person or municipality to obtain a water diversion permit from DEEP before beginning to divert more than 500,000 gallons of water per day from state waters for the purposes of selling or bottling the water. This requirement applies regardless of any statute or special act and includes any water previously registered as a water diversion.

By September 30, 2017, the bill requires the Water Planning Council to report to the legislature on the status of any registered or authorized water diversions and whether any modifications to them are necessary to comply with the state water plan. It must submit the report to the Energy and Technology, Environment, Planning and Development, and Public Health committees.

STATE WATER PLAN

The bill expands the scope of the state water plan to include recommendations regarding:

1. water rates charged licensed water bottlers;

2. water company rates, rate setting practices, and rate structures;

3. water company consumer advocates and public input regarding water company rates, including whether municipalities or entities should charge licensed water bottlers a clean water project charge rate less than that charged residential consumers (see BACKGROUND); and

4. guidelines on (a) daily water volume restrictions, (b) transport modes, and (c) the reduction of negative environmental impacts from registered or authorized daily water diversions of more than 500,000 gallons of water.

By law, the state's Water Planning Council must prepare the plan by July 1, 2017 and submit it to the legislature for approval, revision, or disapproval.

DROUGHT METRICS AND WATER USE RESTRICTIONS

The bill requires water companies to:

1. recognize and implement the uniform drought metrics specified in the National Drought Mitigation Center's U.S. Drought Monitor (see BACKGROUND) and

2. comply with all water use restrictions the DPH commissioner orders during a public drinking water supply emergency.

Under the bill, as under existing law, “water company” means any individual, municipality, or entity that owns, maintains, operates, manages, controls, or employs any pond, lake, reservoir, well, stream, or distributing plant or system that supplies water to two or more consumers or to 25 or more people on a regular basis.

BACKGROUND

Public Drinking Water Supply Emergency

The law authorizes the DPH commissioner, in consultation with the DEEP commissioner and Public Utilities Regulatory Authority, to declare a public drinking water supply emergency when he receives information that one exists, is imminent, or is reasonably expected to occur without immediately implementing conservation practices. During such an emergency, the DPH commissioner may allow or order the (1) water conservation practices, including restrictions on a public water system's or municipality's water use; (2) sale, supply, or taking of waters; and (3) temporary interconnection of water mains to sell or transfer water between water companies (CGS 25-32b).

Clean Water Project Charge

The Metropolitan District Commission (MDC) levies this charge to repay debt associated with its Clean Water Project, a $2.1 billion project mandated by state and federal environmental officials to reduce sewage overflow into the Connecticut River. The charge is based on metered water consumption and is charged to MDC customers who receive both water and sewer services.

U.S. Drought Monitor

The U.S. Drought Monitor, established in 1999, is a weekly map of drought conditions based on climatic, hydrologic, and soil condition measurements and reported impacts and observations from more than 350 contributors around the country. It is jointly produced by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, the U.S. Department of Agriculture, and the National Drought Mitigation Center at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln.

COMMITTEE ACTION

Planning and Development Committee

Joint Favorable Substitute

Yea

15

Nay

5

(03/18/2016)