Trickle down: Investments in Upper Basin may bolster ailing Colorado River
WASHINGTON — The Department of the Interior recently announced a $728 million investment to deliver clean, reliable drinking water to rural and tribal communities.
The influx of cash also will support water conservation in the Upper Colorado River Basin, and complete projects to improve water supply reliability.
Funded by the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law, seven authorized rural water projects under construction in Iowa, Minnesota, Montana, New Mexico, North Dakota and South Dakota will receive $278 million. These investments build on the allocation of $420 million for rural water construction activities in fiscal year 2022. The funding is helping projects complete construction of water treatment plants and intakes, supporting work related to pipeline connections, pump systems, and reservoir construction, and advancing other efforts to provide potable water to rural and Tribal communities.
The Bureau of Reclamation is also making available up to $125 million to support the relaunch of a System Conservation Pilot Program in the Upper Colorado River Basin. The renewed program – funded with an initial allocation through the Inflation Reduction Act – will help support water management and conservation efforts to improve water efficiency and ultimately protect the short-term sustainability of the Colorado River System.
This is in addition to the over $325 million in fiscal year 2023 funding that Reclamation has allocated for ongoing work on drought resilience projects across the country. Separately, this week the U.S. Department of Agriculture announced $25 million in WaterSMART funds to help Western farmers and ranchers conserve water through a partnership with Reclamation and USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service.
“The Biden-Harris administration is committed to making communities more resilient to the impacts of climate change -- this includes making the Colorado River Basin and the diverse communities that rely on it more resilient to the ongoing drought in the West,” said Secretary Deb Haaland. “We are investing historic resources through the President’s Bipartisan Infrastructure Law and Inflation Reduction Act to provide clean, reliable drinking water to rural and tribal communities, protect the stability and sustainability of the Colorado River System, and increase water efficiency across the West.”
Overall, the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law provides Reclamation with $8.3 billion over five years for water infrastructure projects to advance drought resilience and expand access to clean water for families, farmers, and wildlife.
Upper Basin System Conservation Pilot Program
Up to $125 million in funding from the Inflation Reduction Act will enable Reclamation, in partnership with the Upper Colorado River Commission, to immediately move forward to implement the System Conservation Pilot Program. From 2015 to 2018, the Upper Basin System Conservation Pilot Program successfully tested new approaches to conserve water on the Colorado River and proved these measures are an effective approach to temporarily increase water efficiency and mitigate the impacts of drought.
The program is cooperatively managed by Reclamation and the Upper Division States of Colorado, New Mexico, Utah and Wyoming acting through the Upper Colorado River Commission.
This program supplements additional investments from the Biden-Harris administration to help increase water conservation, improve water efficiency, and prevent the System’s reservoirs from falling to critically low elevations that would threaten water deliveries and power production. Reclamation is currently reviewing applications for a similar program in the Lower Colorado River Basin and expects to make additional announcements in the coming months to support water conservation and address the ongoing drought.
Information provided by the Interior Department
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