Louisiana has spent at least $5.3 million on a dozen studies about water resources and management, the Louisiana Legislative Auditor says. Several studies recommended developing a comprehensive plan, but the state still doesn’t have one.
“A comprehensive water management plan would help ensure that the state’s water resources are protected, conserved, and replenished for the health, safety, and welfare of Louisiana citizens,” the LLA said in a report made public Monday.
The report finds saltwater intrusion and declining water levels in many state wells and aquifers. It mentions as an example the Chicot Aquifer in southwest Louisiana, where 348 more gallons per day are withdrawn than are replenished, largely because of rice irrigation and industrial uses.
Since officials from other states sometimes inquire about using Louisiana’s water, it would be helpful to have a better idea how much water the state needs for its own uses, the LLA says. A 2012 state law mandates approval by the relevant state House and Senate committees to transfer water outside of Louisiana.
The auditor’s report said state and local entities should be given more legal authority to manage their water resources. But even when an entity has the ability to designate priorities and limit withdrawals, the authority is not always used effectively, the report said.
The LLA gave five recommendations for lawmakers to consider:
• Ensure the statewide water resource monitoring network is continually reviewed and evaluated to determine that oversight entities have the information necessary to properly manage the state’s water resources.
• Determine whether broader authority needs to be given to the Department of Natural Resources or other state and local entities to restrict water withdrawals on new and existing water wells to address water sustainability.
• Either develop regional bodies to manage water usage or develop a statewide plan that includes a regional planning process.
• Require a person or entity to enter into a cooperative endeavor agreement in order to withdraw running water.
• Develop a valuation model for determining the fair market value of Louisiana’s water resources.