House passes water conservation repeal


Cities providing water for more than 1,000 people could make water conservation efforts optional under a bill passed by the House.

Sponsored by Rep. Tim O’Driscoll (R-Sartell) HF1923 would repeal so-called water demand rate structures for municipal water suppliers. Such rates typically penalize heavy water users and reward those who live in cities with tiered rate structures.

“What the bill does is make a practice optional that is now in state law,” O’Driscoll said. The bill also delays state-mandated “demand reduction measures” to reduce water demand and nonessential water uses from Jan. 1, 2013, to Jan. 1, 2015.

Passed 71-60, the bill now goes to the Senate, where Sen. John Pederson (R-St. Cloud) is the sponsor. The proposal is also in an omnibus environmental permitting bill, HF2095/ SF1567*, sponsored by Rep. Dan Fabian (R-Roseau) and Sen. Bill Ingebrigtsen (R-Alexandria), that awaits conference committee action.

O’Driscoll’s bill also deletes a requirement that public water suppliers create conservation rate price structures and a public education program that includes water-conserving toilet and showerhead retrofits.

 Before the bill passed, it was successfully amended by Rep. Mary Liz Holberg (R-Lakeville) to remove the Metropolitan Council’s authority to force any cities to adopt water demand reduction measures.

That drew criticism from a handful of DFLers, including Rep. Jean Wagenius (DFL-Mpls). “The Holberg amendment makes this bill, which is problematic, not good at all,” said Wagenius. She fears that demand from groundwater sources is too great and that underground pollution could be drawn into municipal water supplies if demand is strong.

O’Driscoll said the bill attempts to “return all authority back to local cities of more than 1,000 and still work with the Department of Natural Resources on a water conservation program. The city would still have the authority; it’s not going away.”