President Biden recently signed the Flood Level, Observation, Operations, and Decision Support Act (FLOODS Act), codifying an important leadership and management tool that helped modernize federal water policy in the United States. In 2018 a “federal water sub-cabinet” was informally established to coordinate water policy across the major federal agencies responsible for developing, managing, funding, regulating, and researching water resources in the United States. The original members included senior water officials within the Department of the Interior, Environmental Protection Agency, Department of Agriculture, Army Corps of Engineers, Department of Energy, and National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. The subcabinet was formally established in October 2020 under Executive Order 13956, “Modernizing America’s Water Resource Management and Water Infrastructure.”
Section 13 of the FLOODS Act enshrines the same basic structure and policy focus of Executive Order 13956, while changing the name of the water subcabinet to the “Interagency Committee on Water Management and Infrastructure” or the “Water Policy Committee” for brevity. The Water Policy Committee will continue to be co-chaired by the Department of the Interior and the Environmental Protection Agency, helping to ensure that water quality and water resource management remain on equal footing as major decisions regarding the future of water in this country are debated and decided.
The focus of the Water Policy Committee will include several key areas: water sector workforce development, data management and modeling, water forecasting, water reuse and desalination, drinking water and wastewater management, flood control, nutrient management, source water protection, water supply, drought resiliency, and the promotion of restoration activities, among other topics. The original goal of the federal water subcabinet was to help ensure that America plans for the development and operation of a reliable supply of clean water for generations to come, and the FLOODS Act will help ensure the realization of that goal.