Briefing Book

Water Briefing Book



NCEL Point of Contact

Kate Burgess
Conservation Program Manager



Climate change is altering the patterns of rainfall, snowfall and runoff, which creates challenges for existing water infrastructure developed with outdated assumptions. Population growth and demographic changes concentrate people in places that are often vulnerable to drought or flood, particularly impacting regions that produce food and energy. At the same time, fish, wildlife, and other natural resources rely on water, and if healthy environments are to persist, states must accommodate their needs through innovative policy solutions. These challenges combine to create a growing policy imperative to make best use of water resources and to ensure that future growth and development is water-efficient and takes into account natural resources needs. This briefing book addresses potential state legislative options to address water scarcity in one major area: water for people.

Briefing Book Contents

  • Agriculture and Water Scarcity: As farmers increasingly draw from groundwater for crop irrigation, it is important to protect underground water stores, which take years to refill.
  • Exempt Wells: Limiting the impact of exempt wells on stream flows and senior water rights is increasingly important because of burgeoning rural development.
  • Human Right to Water: A human right to water is being increasingly recognized worldwide. In the US, California, Montana, Pennsylvania, and New York have recognized that right. 
  • State Water Plans: Many states have water plans, but few fully incorporate climate change and modern concepts of integrated water resources planning. 
  • Water District Planning and Efficiency Requirements: State law shapes how water districts plan for the future, and ultimately may require efficiency standards. 


NCEL Resources

Online Resources

Water Use in the United States - USGS

The United States Geological Survey issues a report every 5 years summarizing water usage information for the country, for each state, and even at the county level.

Go to resource
State Water Efficiency Scorecard - Alliance for Water Efficiency

The Alliance for Water Efficiency released a summary and scorecard for state water efficiency standards in 2017.

Go to resource
The Future of Water Markets - PERC

This resource addresses timely water policy issues and offers ideas to enhance the future of water markets.

Go to resource
One Water for America State Policymakers’ Toolkit - US Water Alliance

This document is aimed at helping state policymakers advance innovative solutions to the complex and challenging problems in water today.

Go to resource

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