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Executive Order

Identification of Critical Water Resources and Mitigation of Water Use Competition in Vulnerable Watersheds

By the authority vested in me as President by the Constitution and the laws of the United States of America, and in order to reduce the competition for water resources from electricity production in vulnerable watersheds, it is hereby ordered as follows:

Section 1. – Policy.    The U. S. Geological Survey reported this year that “the Nation faces an increasingly large set of water-resource challenges as water shortages and water-use conflicts become more commonplace.”  The agency also found that “national water availabil­ity and use have not been comprehensively assessed since 1978.” Since this assessment more than 30 years ago and earlier analyses, the U.S. Geological Survey found that “competition for water resources has increased greatly and considerably more importance is attached to the availability of water for environmental and ecosystem needs, in addition to human use.”

The United States can ill-afford to continue to withdraw and consume water at current rates.  Increasing population, energy and agricultural demands as well as climate change’s contribution to drought are driving the rising competition for water resources. Key regions of the United States are faced with declining water supplies and attendant intra- and interstate conflicts over its use.  Over the next 20 years, the U.S. Geological Survey and Department of Defense project that water scarcity and competition will spread to most regions of the country. We must act to avoid, eliminate or mitigate these regional water budget issues beginning now before we are faced with a true crisis.

Therefore, it is critical that the federal government ascertain the water budget in the United States for management purposes by completing the National Water Census ordered by Congress in the Omnibus Public Land Management Act of 2009 (Public Law 111-11, also known as the SECURE Water Act) as quickly as practicable and take steps to reduce water consumption, especially in vulnerable watersheds.

In its most recent report to Congress, the U.S. Geological Survey identified three critical watersheds as the subjects of their initial studies.  These include the Apalachicola-Chattahoochee-Flint (ACF) River Basin, the Delaware River Basin, and the Colorado River Basin that encompass many smaller, impaired bodies of water.   USGS chose these watersheds due to their importance to the country and because they represent “watersheds with potential water-use conflicts.”   USGS also found in its report to Congress that thermoelectric power and irrigation are the largest users of water in the Nation.

Section 2.  U.S. Water Budget.  (a) The Department of Interior is directed to make the completion of the National Water Census prior to 2020 its highest priority.  All available discretionary funds shall be directed toward implementation of this program.

(b) The Water Security Campaign (the Campaign) is established.  The Campaign shall consist of a public education component and a recommendation component for the electric generation mix, with the goal of reducing the water-intensity of the power sector.

(1) Water Security Campaign Public Education Initiative.  Within four months of adoption of this Order, the Office of the Water Budget Planning Commission established under subsection (2) (the Commission) shall implement a public information campaign to educate the public as to the current view held by the U.S. Geological Survey, Department of Defense, and Sandia Laboratory with respect to the country’s water budget, the ultimate difficulties we face as a nation due to current withdrawal and use rates, and the importance of completing the National Water Assessment.  This effort shall be designated as the Water Security Campaign.  The main focus of the campaign shall be to highlight the two largest water users in the country, thermoelectric power plants and agriculture, identify the withdrawal and use rates by region of the country, identify increasing uses associated with energy generation in the foreseeable future, discuss the impacts of climate change on water availability, and identify approaches to prevent a water budget crisis.  For thermoelectric power plants, proposed recommendations shall be consistent with the sustainability criteria established by this order.

The Commission shall conduct 12 regional meetings within 18 months beginning on implementation of the Campaign to educate the public and receive input from the public as to the water budget issues local residents are facing.

(2) The Water Budget Planning Commission (the Commission) is established.  The Commission consists of the Departments of Agriculture, Energy, Defense, Interior, EPA and the Council on Environmental Quality and shall make recommendations for water use mitigation approaches consistent with the sustainability criteria established in this Order. The Commission shall establish recommendations to address the growing competition for water by thermoelectric power plant use (including fuel extraction to operate thermoelectric power plants such as mining and fracking) and farming  through mitigation efforts that reduce the burden on water resources without threatening the food supply.

The following sustainability criteria are established to address power sector water withdrawal and consumption rates.  Technologies and the ultimate mix of electric generation technologies should be those that:

1)   are affordable or have the ability to decline in cost and are less prone to cost overruns;

2)   use and consume the least volume of water resources (including a technology’s fuel cycle from resource extraction through operation and combustion);

3)   generate the least amount of pollution in terms of air emissions, water discharges, deforestation, stormwater runoff and waste generation (including a technology’s fuel cycle);

4)   generate the least amount of greenhouse gases (including a technology’s fuel cycle); and,

5)   maintain grid reliability.

With respect to residential and industrial uses, the Commission shall emphasize actionable water conservation practices.

Section 3.  Mitigation of thermoelectric water use in critical basins. In order to mitigate or avoid water use competition in the United States and in keeping with Executive Order 13514 (October 5, 2009), the federal government, in cooperation with regional, state and local government entities, NGOs, and business organizations, shall reduce or eliminate, to the extent practicable, by 2030 water-intensive, steam-cycle coal-fired, nuclear and natural-gas fired power plants that derive water from or impact the three river basins cited above (Apalachicola-Chattahoochee-Flint (ACF) River Basin, the Delaware River Basin, and the Colorado River Basin) with the less water-intensive optimal electric generation mix of:

1)   End Use Energy Efficiency;

2)   Solar PV and Wind Power (non-combustion renewables, both utility-scale and distributed);

3)   Distributed Power Technologies;

4)   Demand Response;

5)   Storage Technologies;

6)   Simple cycle and combined cycle natural gas-fired power plants, with the goal of limiting deployment of these resources as much as practicable.

This electric generation mix comports with the sustainability criteria established by this Order.

(a) The charter of the Subcommittee on Water Availability and Quality (Subcommittee) of the National Science and Technology Council’s Committee on Environment and Natural Resources is hereby renewed.

(b) The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission is added to the membership of the Subcommittee.

(c) The Subcommittee shall conduct a study to: (1) recommend the optimal electric generation mix cited above to reduce or eliminate the water-intensive, electric generation resources cited above to be completed within 12 months of adoption of this order. In recommending the optimal electric generation mix, the subcommittee shall select technologies that are affordable or have the greatest potential to come down in cost, use and consume the least amount of water, generate the least pollution, effectively reduce greenhouse gas emissions and maintain grid reliability.

(2) assess the cost, water impacts (including atmospheric deposition of pollutants), and feasibility of 50 percent, 80 percent and 100 percent phase-out of water-intensive, steam-cycle coal-fired, nuclear, utility-scale biomass-fired, oil-fired and natural-gas fired power plants by 2030.   Externality costs shall be assigned where feasible.

(3) assess the technological requirements of achieving these percentage reductions for federal RD&D purposes.

(4) assess the policies required to achieve these reductions.

(d) Upon completion of the study, the Committee on Environment and Natural Resources shall take the necessary steps to coordinate with regional, state and local government entities, NGOs, and the business community to implement the stated federal policy in this Order to the extent feasible and utilize all federal authority to support this policy.

Section 4. General Provisions.  (a) This order shall be implemented in a manner consistent with applicable law and subject to the availability of appropriations.

(b) Nothing in this order shall be construed to impair or otherwise affect the functions of the OMB Director relating to budgetary, administrative, or legislative proposals.

1.7 million Americans are saying today that it is critically important that the next President embrace a truly clean energy revolution for electric power generation.