The 60th Legislsative Session enacted HB 831 for revising water laws in closed basins, defining terms in water use laws; amending requirements for an application to appropriate groundwater in a closed basin; providing that certain applications to appropriate surface waer are exempt from closed basin requirement; providing requirements for hydrogeologic assessments, mitigation plans, and aquifer recharge plans; providing minimum water quality standards for certain discharges of effluent; requiring that previousy approved plans that were not located in the Clark Fork Basin must meet certain criteria; requiring that data be submitted to the Bureau of Mines an Geology; providing for rule-making; providing for a case study and requirements.
The 2007/2008 Water Policy Interim Committee (WPIC) recognized that competition for water resources and the lack of detailed information on groundwater/surface water interaction has challenged informed water-resource management and development in Montana. The WPIC found that "continued and expanded study of groundwater resources is vital to shaping statewide policy as well as providing the data necessary for local decisions regarding water." HB 52 was drafted by the WPIC in response to this finding.
The 61st Montana Legislature passed HB 52 with a first biennium appropriation of $4.2 million; based on the program design, this will provide funding for 6 to 8 projects lasting 1 to 3 years.
The Ground Water Investigations Program (GWIP) established by HB 52 will add to Montana's capability to deal with important water-resource issues including: