Biden-Harris Invest $728M to Fight Western Drought, Improve Climate Resilience

Interior Department

As part of the Biden-Harris administration’s commitment to enhance the resilience of the West to drought and climate change, the Department of the Interior today announced a $728 million investment to deliver clean, reliable drinking water to rural and Tribal communities, support water conservation in the Upper Colorado River Basin, and complete projects to improve water supply reliability. This historic funding from President Biden’s Bipartisan Infrastructure Law, the Inflation Reduction Act, and the Consolidated Appropriations Act of 2023 supplements unprecedented investments to protect the stability and sustainability of the Colorado River System now and into the future.

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.”

“The Bureau of Reclamation is committed to ensuring the continued availability of water across the West, while at the same time enhancing the resiliency of our communities to a changing climate. As we move forward with these urgent priorities, we are doing so in close collaboration with Basin states, Tribes, water managers, farmers, irrigators, and other stakeholders,” said Reclamation Commissioner Camille Calimlim Touton. “This historic funding underscores how proactive efforts from the Biden-Harris administration are helping increase water efficiency and conservation 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. The Inflation Reduction Act is investing an additional $4.6 billion to address the worsening drought crisis and plan for the hydrology of today and into the future. Combined, these laws represent the largest investments in climate resilience in the nation’s history.

Historic Investments for Rural Water

Funding in fiscal year 2023 from the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law will enable significant advances of rural water systems and associated features:

  • $77.56 million for the Rocky Boys / North Central Montana Rural Water System in Montana for core pipeline construction on segments 7 and 8, continued construction progress of a water treatment plant, as well as construction for segments associated with Havre, Chester and Shelby Hub service areas.
  • $62.11 million for the Eastern New Mexico Rural Water System in New Mexico for the construction of approximately 26 miles of raw water transmission pipeline.
  • $60 million for the Lewis & Clark Rural Water System in Iowa, Minnesota and South Dakota to support a water treatment plant, construction associated with the Sible service area, and to reimburse states for related costs.
  • $26.33 million for the Garrison-Diversion Unit of the Pick-Sloan Missouri Basin Program in North Dakota for efforts associated with construction of water treatment plants, as well as efforts to support service on the Spirit Lake, Standing Rock and Fort Berthold Reservations.
  • $25 million for the recently authorized Musselshell-Judith Rural Water System in Montana for substantial completion of phases 3 and 4 of rural water construction activities.
  • $15 million for the Fort Peck Reservation – Dry Prairie Rural Water System in Montana to support substantial completion of the project.
  • $12 million for the Jicarilla Apache Rural Water System in New Mexico to support progress toward water treatment plant upgrades.

Detailed information on the fiscal year 2023 spend plan is available on Reclamation’s website.

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.

More about the implementation of the 2023 System Conservation Pilot Program can be found on the Upper Colorado River Commission website.

Investments from the Consolidated Appropriations Act:

The Consolidated Appropriations Act of 2023 provides an additional $325 million in funding for work in five categories within the Water and Related Resources account, including:

  • Over $229 million for Water Conservation and Delivery;
  • $50 million for Rural Water;
  • $31 million for Environmental Restoration or Compliance;
  • $11 million for Fish Passage and Fish Screens; and
  • $4 million for Facilities Operation, Maintenance, and Rehabilitation.

This funding will go to construction and preconstruction activities where environmental compliance has been completed and the project will improve water supply reliability, improve water deliveries, enhance economic development, promote job growth, advance Tribal and non-Tribal water studies and activities or address critical backlog maintenance and rehabilitation activities.

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