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Future Connecticut water plan sparks debate over who controls the management of water

NEW BRITAIN-- A State Water Plan could impact how the state preserves water for future use. Connecticut is known as a water-abundant state, but questions about who gets to use the water, and how, and at what cost, have led to conflicts.

Saturday, people attending a conference at Central Connecticut State University discussed those conflicts.

In 2018, the Water Planning Council a State Water Plan to the State Legislature. But, the Legislature didn't act on that plan because of arguments over two words in the document: "public trust".

"How do you integrate that with water planning to be sure there's enough water for the uses we want today and that we have water in the future?" says Margaret Miner, the Executive Director of Rivers Alliance of Connecticut.

While on the one side people feel their interests are being protected by the future water plan, the other side says their interests are not being taken into consideration. Water companies say that other states have expanded on "public trust" doctrines to impose stricter regulations on commercial water uses.

They say that Connecticut state laws already reflect a balanced approach to regulating water use, and don't want to open the door to future regulations.

"So we just want to make sure that the plan does not change existing law relative to the public trust," says Betsy Gara, the Executive Director of the Connecticut Waterworks Association. "That we can continue to operate efficiently, provide water to our customers at a reasonable cost."

State Representative Jonathan Steinberg is a proponent of the plan and says it addresses the social, economic, and environmental impacts of our water use equally.

"It’s mentioned several times in the document," says Steinberg. "To me that should reassure anyone that we’re not putting environmental interests solely in front of everything else."

He says the document guides a process for the responsible use of water in the future.

"Water is not a discreet asset, it’s a shared asset," says Steinberg. "It’s our most precious resource. So the whole idea of having a water plan is to balance those interests and make sure they’re all respected and there’s plenty of quality water for all the uses in which we need."

The Water Plan is expected to go back in front of the Legislature this year.

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