Today, Rep. Grace F. Napolitano (D-CA) called for continued support for desalination programs after the House Natural Resources Subcommittee on Water and Power heard testimony on the importance of these technologies that can convert seawater into drinking water. Federal desalination research projects were reauthorized in 2011 by legislative language authored by Napolitano, but funding is currently set to run out next year.
"We cannot afford to let America fall behind in the area of desalination research," Napolitano said. "Our water supply continues to be strained by population growth and climate change, and the ability to convert saltwater into drinking water is fast becoming a critical source of economic growth and international competition."
Napolitano noted that China is investing billions of dollars per year in desalination, in order to increase its water supply and sell desalination technology around the world.
Currently, 61% of the lower 48 states are experiencing "abnormally dry" drought conditions, and climate scientists have stated that future decades will likely bring harsher drought cycles and increased strains on state water supplies. Desalination is one of several solutions that should be explored in order to make our water supply more reliable.
The main federal desalination research program is the Desalination and Water Purification Research & Development (DWPR) Program, created in 1996. In December 2011, the House passed legislative language authored by Napolitano that continued funding for that program through September 2013, at $3 million per year. Today, the Bureau of Reclamation testified as to the importance of the program and urged the Subcommittee to extend funding past 2013.
Napolitano is the top Democrat on the Water and Power Subcommittee. She was unable to attend today's hearing and made her comments from her district in California.