While expressing worry that a water crisis could be looming from drought and population growth, a House committee passed Wednesday a bill by Rep. Jim Matheson, D-Utah, to create new federal research programs on how to expand water supplies.

Matheson's bill would create the new program in the Environmental Protection Agency to research such things as how to expand supplies through collection and reuse of rainwater and greywater; research on water storage and distribution systems; and research on social and economic barriers to greater water efficiency.

The bill was passed by the House Science and Technology Committee, and now goes to the full House.

"Nothing is more important to the economic future of the arid West than sufficient supplies of clean water," Matheson said.

"My bill seeks to ramp up the research and development of those technologies and processes that will help local water managers, local governments and resident conserve water, save money and keep the well, so to speak, from running dry," he said.

Committee Chairman Bart Gordon, D-Tenn., said, "Dwindling water supplies across the United States continue to percolate as a major disaster on our nation's horizon ... In an effort to protect the country from an impending water scarcity crisis, the committee has begun to search out ways for the federal government to spur new technological innovations in water research and development."

The committee report on the bill said public demand for water has increased 209 percent since 1950, and Americans now use an average of 100 gallons of water per person each day. With that, it said 36 states are anticipating local, regional or statewide water shortages by 2013.