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Calendar No. 375
104th Congress Report
2d Session 104-254
WATER DESALINIZATION RESEARCH AND DEVELOPMENT ACT OF 1996
April 18, 1996.--Ordered to be printed
Mr. Chafee, from the Committee on Environment and Public Works,
submitted the following
R E P O R T
[To accompany S. 811]
The Committee on Environment and Public Works, to which was
referred the bill (S. 811) to authorize research into the
desalinization and reclamation of water and to authorize a
program for States, cities, or qualifying agencies desiring to
own and operate a water desalinization or reclamation facility
or to develop such facilities, having considered the same,
reports favorably thereon with an amendment and recommends that
the bill, as amended, do pass.
This legislation authorizes an expanded United States
research and development program to produce lower-cost
desalinization technologies; designates the primary program
responsibility to the Department of the Interior (DOI), in
coordination with the Department of the Army (DOA); authorizes
a basic research and development program to be conducted by the
DOI and the DOA; authorizes development of experimental
desalinization facilities; requires the Agency for
International Development to host a conference for countries
either currently using or planning to use desalinization
technologies; and requires the Secretary of the Interior, in
consultation with the Secretary of the Army, to report yearly
on the progress made in desalinization technology as a result
of this legislation, as well as the agencies' plans for the
The history of the Federal Government's involvement in
desalinization dates back several decades. In the 1950s and
1960s, considerable effort and resources were devoted to
research and development of desalinization technology,
particularly during the Kennedy Administration. According to a
1988 report by the Office of Technology Assessment, U.S.
industry was generally considered to be at the forefront of
desalinization technology throughout the 1960s and into the
1970s. When governmental support for this technology was
eliminated during the 1970s, however, Japanese and European
firms, some of which were supported by their respective
governments, began obtaining contracts that previously would
have been awarded to American firms.
In the face of growing domestic water shortages, as well as
strategic international concerns, the United States should
renew its commitment to developing this key technology and once
again move the United States into the forefront of
desalinization technology development.
As the U.S. population shifts and grows, the need for
developing cost-effective desalinization technologies becomes
even more urgent. The most recent census data shows rapid
growth in suburban areas throughout the United States. These
areas are not simply becoming larger population centers, but
centers of commerce and culture as well. Many demographers,
reviewing the census data and the trends the data suggest,
predict that the most significant constraint to the economic
development of these new suburban centers will be the
availability of water. Reservoirs previously devoted to meeting
the needs of urban areas will not be able to meet the new,
competing demands from the growing suburbs.
Developing cost-effective, desalinization facilities for
cities may well become critical to meeting the economic needs
of suburbs throughout the Nation over the next few decades.
Much of the growth is occurring near the coasts. Fortunately,
one of the few places we can get additional water resources is
from the ocean. California, with 840 miles of coastline,
periodically faces serious water shortages. Florida, with 1,800
miles of coastline, is facing increasing demands for water. The
aquifers currently supplying Long Island's water needs are
beginning to suffer salt water intrusion.
Around the world, the arguments for further development of
desalinization technology are equally compelling. In the Middle
East and northern Africa, all available fresh surface and
groundwater supplies are near full utilization, yet the
predicament has received little attention. Water also has been
an important consideration in the Middle East peace
negotiations because of the existence of an aquifer that lies
under the West Bank which supplies between 25 to 40 percent of
A February 1994 World Bank study of water use trends in
Israel, the West Bank and Jordan states: the need for
significant quantities of desalinated water will rise in 2010.
The period until that time will allow for development of
Mauritania, a country in Northern Africa, grows only 8
percent of its food because of inadequate water resources, yet
it borders the Atlantic Ocean. The population of Egypt is
growing and its water resources are diminishing, yet it is
located on the Mediterranean Sea. Namibia faces serious water
shortages in southern Africa and it is on the ocean.
In 1990, about 60 percent of all available fresh water in
Mexico was depleted. In 2000, this percentage is expected to
increase to 85 percent. Water supply, both quantity and
quality, will become one of Mexico's primary national problems
in the near future.
There are already water supply deficits and water quality
problems in large cities and small towns. In addition,
information on underground water availability is incomplete.
The use of desalinated sea water would go a long way toward
meeting the needs of these water deficient areas.
Additional benefits to be obtained from further
desalinization research are: reduction in the energy
requirements for desalinating; wider practice of water
reclamation and reuse; cost reduction in the removal of
hazardous pollutants from ground and surface water; and
decreased cost burden in complying with existing statutes.
In 1961, President Kennedy stated:
* * * if we could ever competitively, at a cheap rate,
get fresh water from salt water, * * * (this) would be
in the long-range interests of humanity which would
really dwarf any other scientific accomplishments.
Those words are still true today. The reasons are
compelling. The situation is clear and the time for action is
now. Substantial Federal resources need to be dedicated to this
Section 1. Short title
Section 1 states that the legislation may be cited as the
``Water Desalinization Research and Development Act of 1996''.
Section 2. Declaration of policy
Section 2 states that it is the policy of the United States
to perform research and to develop low-cost alternatives in the
desalinization and reuse of saline or biologically impaired
water to provide water of suitable quality.
Section 3. Definitions
Section 3 defines the following terms for purposes of this
legislation: desalinization, nonusable nonsaline water,
reclamation, saline water, sponsor, United States, and usable
Section 4. Research and Development
Section 4 gives primary responsibility for management and
oversight for the research and development program to the
Secretary of the Interior and directs the Secretary to
coordinate activities with the Secretary of the Army.
Currently, no coordination exists among the Federal
agencies involved in desalinization research and development
and construction. Centralized responsibility will help both the
Federal government and the private sector avoid duplication and
advance the U.S. desalinization market and application of this
The Department of the Interior and its Bureau of
Reclamation have a history and expertise in desalinization,
making it the appropriate agency to lead this effort. As home
of the original Federal desalinization programs, the Department
of the Interior has retained many employees from the Office of
Saline Water and later the Office of Water and Research
Technology. As the only Federal agency whose mission is to deal
with national water supply, the Bureau's water conservation
program plans for encouraging coastal communities to develop
adequate local water supplies to reduce their dependence upon
imported inland water are important to build upon.
The Secretary of the Interior is to develop a management
plan for promoting fundamental scientific research into the
best and most economical processes and methods for converting
saline water into fresh water. In addition, methods for the
recovery of byproducts resulting from desalination are to be
The agencies are to use industrial or engineering firms,
Federal laboratories, and educational institutions to conduct
research and are encouraged to seek out and award grants to
small inventors, in addition to universities and companies.
Individual inventors and small organizations are valuable
partners to have in promoting the goals of this legislation.
Section 5. Desalinization Development Program
Section 5 creates the Desalinization Development Program.
The program shall be administered jointly by the Secretary of
the Interior and the Secretary of the Army. Interested parties
shall submit applications for approval for desalinization
projects and certify that they can provide at least 25 percent
of the initial cost of the facility. Initial costs shall
include design costs, construction costs, lands, easements, and
rights-of-way costs, and relocation costs. A sponsor may pay up
to 50 percent of the initial cost of the facility, but the
initial cost may not exceed $10,000,000. The operation,
maintenance, repair, and rehabilitation of the facility shall
be the responsibility of the sponsor, who shall retain all
revenue generated from the sale of the usable water.
This section recognizes the necessity for establishing a
demonstration/construction program for desalinization research.
When fundamental research produces new ideas and technologies,
it needs to be demonstrated that the new process or technology
is safe and reliable.
In addition, spending caps are included to ensure that the
funds appropriated by this legislation are not concentrated in
a single project or a select few.
Because there are established relationships in different
regions of the country with the Bureau of Reclamation and the
Army Corps of Engineers, this section allows sponsors the
flexibility of submitting proposals to either agency.
Section 6. Miscellaneous authorities
Section 6 grants further authorities to the Secretary of
the Interior and the Secretary of the Army to carry out this
Act, including: accepting technical and administrative
assistance from a State or other public entities and from
private entities; acquiring processes, data, inventions,
patents, lands, and other properties; assembling scientific
literature; and conducting conferences relating to the
desalinization of water.
Section 7. Desalinization conference
Section 7 instructs the Agency on International Development
to sponsor an international desalinization conference within 12
months of the date of enactment of this Act. Conference
participants should include scientists, private industry
experts, desalinization experts and operators, and government
officials. Participants should be from countries that use and
conduct desalinization and from those countries that could
benefit from low-cost desalinization technology. The purpose of
the conference is to explore new technologies and methods to
make desalinization a reality.
Section 8. Reports
Section 8 directs the Secretary of the Interior, in
consultation with the Secretary of the Army, to prepare an
annual report to the President and to Congress on the actions
taken during that year and the actions planned for the next
year concerning the administration of this Act. In a further
effort to avoid duplication, the report should provide
information on desalinization activities being carried out in
other agencies, but not authorized by this Act. Including this
information will help identify where Federal resources should
Section 9. Authorization for appropriations
Section 9 authorizes an increasing annual appropriation for
basic research and development as well as a separate
authorization for contributions to the construction of
projects. For basic research and development, $5,000,000 is
authorized in fiscal year 1997, and $7,500,000 in each of
fiscal years 1998 through 2001.
For the Desalinization Development Program, a total of
$40,000,000 is authorized for fiscal years 1997 through 2001.
Appropriations are to be made available in equal amounts to the
Department of the Interior and the civil works program of the
Army Corps of Engineers.
No hearings were held on the bill.
Section 7(b) of rule XXVI of the Standing Rules of the
Senate and the rules of the Committee on Environment and Public
Works require that any rollcall votes taken during
consideration of legislation be noted in the report on that
At the business meeting of the Committee on Environment and
Public Works on March 28, 1996, the bill S. 811 was amended and
ordered to be reported favorably by voice vote. No rollcall
vote was taken.
In compliance with Section 11(b) of rule XXVI of the
Standing Rules of the Senate, the Committee makes the following
evaluation of the regulatory impact of the bill.
The bill does not create any additional regulatory burdens.
Cost of Legislation
Section 403 of the Congressional Budget and Impoundment
Control Act requires that a statement of the cost of the
reported bill, prepared by the Congressional Budget Office, be
included in the report. That statement follows:
Congressional Budget Office,
Washington, DC, April 17, 1996.
Hon. John H. Chafee,
Chairman, Committee on Environment and Public Works, U.S. Senate,
Dear Mr. Chairman: The Congressional Budget Office has
prepared the enclosed cost estimate for S. 811, the Water
Desalinization Research and Development Act of 1996.
Enactment of S. 811 would not affect direct spending or
receipts. Therefore, pay-as-you-go procedures would not apply
to the bill.
If you wish further details on this estimate, we will be
pleased to provide them.
June E. O'Neill.
CONGRESSIONAL BUDGET OFFICE COST ESTIMATE
1. Bill number: S. 811.
2. Bill title: Water Desalinization Research and
Development Act of 1996.
3. Bill status: As ordered reported by the Senate Committee
on Environment and Works on March 28, 1996.
4. Bill purpose: S. 811 would authorize the Secretary of
the Interior, in coordination with the Secretary of the Army,
conduct research and development to determine the
most efficient means of converting saline water into
usable water; and
establish a desalinization development program.
Local, State, or interstate agency sponsors would pay
at least 25 percent of the initial cost of facilities
constructed under the desalinization development
program. They also would be responsible for operating
and maintaining the facilities and would retain all
revenue generated by the sale of usable water.
The bill also would require the Agency for International
Development (AID) to sponsor an international desalinization
conference within 12 months of the bill's enactment.
5. Estimated cost to the Federal Government: Assuming
appropriation of the amounts authorized by the bill, CBO
estimates that enacting S. 811 would result in new
discretionary spending totaling $52 million the 1996-2000
period. Additional spending of $23 million would occur after
2000 from amounts authorized by the bill. Outlays are estimated
based on historical spending rates for similar programs. There
is no funding under current law for the programs that would be
authorized by S. 811.
[By fiscal year, in millions of dollars]
, 1996 1997 1998 1999 2000
Spending subject to
level...................... 0 13 16 16 16
Estimated outlays........... 0 7 14 15 16
The costs of this bill fall within budget function 300.
6. Basis of estimate: For research and development
activities, the bill would authorize appropriations of $5
million for fiscal year 1997, and $1.5 million for each of
fiscal years 1998-2001. The bill would authorize $40 million
over fiscal years 1997 through 2001 for the desalinization
development program. For purposes of this estimate, we assume
that funding for the desalinization program would be about $8
million each year over the 1997-2001 period.
The bill also would require AID to hold an international
desalinization conference and to pay for it with existing
funds. CBO estimates that cost of the conference would be less
than $500,000, which would be spent mostly in fiscal year 1997.
7. Pay-as-you-go considerations: None.
8. Estimated impact on State, local, and tribal
governments: The bill contains no intergovernmental mandates as
defined in Public Law 104-4, and would impose no new direct
costs on State, local, or tribal governments.
Water agencies that apply for and receive assistance under
this program would be required to pay at least 25 percent of
the initial design and construction costs of a desalinization
facility. Assuming appropriations total $40 million for fiscal
years 1997 through 2001, local, State, and interstate water
agencies would contribute at least $13 million toward these
costs over the same period. Federal contributions would be
capped at $10 million per facility. Water agencies would be
required to pay all the costs of operating, maintaining, and
repairing the facilities and would retain all revenues from the
sale of usable water.
9. Estimated impact on the private sector: None.
10. Previous CBO estimate: None.
11. Estimate prepared by: Federal cost estimate--Gary Brown
and Joseph Whitehill; State and local impacts--Pepper
Santalucia; private sector impacts--Amy Downs.
12. Estimate approved by: Robert R. Sunshine, for Paul N.
Van de Water, Assistant Director for Budget Analysis.
Changes in Existing Law
In compliance with section 12 of rule XXVI of the Standing
Rules of the Senate, changes to existing law must be shown if
applicable. No change to existing law would occur with passage
of this legislation.