The state is in the process of developing new policies for how water is used in Connecticut, and state officials who spent the past two years developing a 650-page report on the subject got feedback from New Haven County residents Wednesday night.
The Connecticut State Water Planning Council is preparing a series of water policy recommendations to give to state lawmakers in time for the start of the 2018 legislative session. The draft report developed by the council — which is made up of representatives of the Public Utilities Regulatory Authority, the state Department of Public Health, the Department of Energy and Environmental Protection and Connecticut Office of Policy and Management — is scheduled to be delivered to lawmaker by Jan. 1.
Joining representatives of the Water Planning Council at the hearing were state Sen. Ted Kennedy Jr., D-Branford, chairman of the legislature’s environment committee, and state Rep. Mary Mushinsky, D-Wallingford.
Kennedy said the state needs to streamline who oversees water usage.
“There are very few issues that are more important than making sure we have an adequate water supply, and there is so much bureaucracy overseeing it,” Kennedy told the crowd of 17 people who attended the hearing. “My idea is to streamline so that people can understand what the difference is between a drought watch and a drought warning.”
One example of the bureaucracy Kennedy spoke of is how enforcement of water issues are handled in the state, said Lori Mathieu, Connecticut Department of Public Health Drinking Water Section Chief, who is a member of the Planning Council.
“When it comes down to rationing water, it’s the local health department director that is responsible for deciding when that needs to happen,” Mathieu said.
Much of the two-hour hearing was spent discussing who has a right to draw water from the state’s rivers. Mushinsky said that rather than grant businesses and other entities the right to draw water in perpetuity, there should be process in which water users would be required to reapply for the ability to do so.
Mushinsky also said she favors charging people more to use water during periods in which it is scarce. The goal, she said, would be to discourage people from using it frivolously.
Bob Appicelli of North Haven said the recommendations that the Water Planning Council delivers to the legislature needs to contain prohibitions against bottled water companies using water from public systems to sell to customers.
“Somewhere in there, it needs to say that we will not allow you to take this,” Appicelli said in reference to bottled water companies.
The period for public comment on the report ends Nov. 20, Mathieu said.