In a state seemingly overrun by water, state government doesn’t manage its resources very well and faces threats to Louisiana’s water supplies, according to a Legislative Auditor’s analysis released Monday.
Because of an abundance of bayous, rivers and marshes, plus Louisiana seems to flood with near every rainstorm, the state is “perceived as ‘water rich,’” the 110-page report noted.
But the lack of adequate management threatens whether the state will have enough water in the future.
“Specifically, we found Louisiana is experiencing multiple issues related to water because of excessive groundwater withdrawals. In addition, because the sustainability of the state’s water resources may be threatened by other states that want to obtain our water, it is important to know how much water Louisiana will need for its own use,” Legislative Auditor Daryl Purpera wrote in a letter to House Speaker Clay Schexnayder, R-Gonzalez, and Senate President Page Cortez, R-Lafayette.
“We found the state has increased the number of groundwater and surface water monitoring sites that measure water levels and chloride concentration in aquifers, and water levels, stream flow, and high water points in surface waters. However, some state and local entities do not have sufficient authority to regulate water use in their areas, and others do not use their authority effectively,” Purpera wrote. “Developing a comprehensive water management plan would help ensure the state’s water resources are protected, conserved, and replenished for the health, safety, and welfare of Louisiana citizens.”
The 110-page report included a half a dozen or so suggestions for legislation to be considered in the upcoming session, which begins March 9.
Louisiana’s water resources include 10 principal surface water basins and 11 aquifers and aquifer systems underlying most areas of the state.
The report stated that properly managing water resources has become an important issue as population growth, increased agricultural demand, and shifting weather patterns have led to additional pressure being placed on existing public utilities, thereby increasing the demand on already limited water supplies. “The result is that more water is being drawn out of groundwater sources than nature is able to recharge.”
In addition, other states are looking to buy Louisiana’s water.
For instance, a Texas business approached the Sabine River Authority in 2011 to buy fresh water from Toledo Bend at 28-cents per thousand gallons for 50 years. The deal was sidetracked after opponents publicly worried about how the deal would impact water levels in the lake.
Seven different state agencies have differing responsibilities to manage water in Louisiana.
The Department of Natural Resources, for instance, registers wells and groundwater use. While the Department of Transportation & Development manages state-owned water control structures and the Department of Health enforces the Safe Drinking Water Act.
At least 735 local, parish and regional entities have say so over specific water resources.
The Auditor’s report suggested the Legislature consider measures that would give the Department of Natural Resources broader authority as well as give other state and local entities the ability to restrict water withdrawals on new and existing water wells. Another recommendation would be for the Legislature draft a comprehensive water resource management plan.