Citing an “acute and critical need” magnified by another all-too-familiar drought, a national coalition representing thousands of Western farmers, ranchers, water providers, businesses and communities urged Senate leaders yesterday to take action to address the shortcomings of aging water infrastructure.
In a letter to Chairman Joe Manchin and Ranking Member John Barrasso of the Committee on Energy and Natural Resources, the coalition said federal investment in a diversified water management portfolio that serves a broad range of water uses must be included as essential infrastructure in the next legislative package.
The coalition includes more than 220 organizations from 15 states that collectively represent $120 billion in agricultural production—nearly one-third of all agricultural production in the country—and many of the local and regional public water agencies that supply water to more than 75 million urban, suburban and rural residents.
The coalition warned that changing hydrological conditions and an expanding population in the West raise serious concerns about the future viability of the nation’s water infrastructure. To keep water flowing to farms, ranches, cities and the environment, the coalition said substantial federal investment is needed to bolster deteriorating storage and conveyance facilities and build new ones.
“This funding will assist in addressing critical safety needs, develop new infrastructure, invest in smart water technology and conservation, and improve forest and water ecosystems. Additionally, it will spur economic recovery and prepare us to meet the water needs of the next generation in the face of a changing climate,” the coalition letter said.
As part of a comprehensive water management portfolio, the coalition identified 1) more than $13 billion in Bureau of Reclamation water infrastructure needs over the next 10 years, including storage and conveyance, dam safety, rural water, water-smart technologies, and water recycling and reuse projects; 2) $34 billion for USDA to undertake forest restoration, watershed protection and flood prevention projects; and 3) $1.75 billion for Army Corps of Engineers water storage projects and environmental infrastructure.
The coalition concluded the letter with a call for Congress to streamline regulation and permitting processes, along with other reforms, to ensure the timely construction of federal water projects as part of President Biden’s jobs and economic recovery plan.