Federal Policy Update: Bipartisan Infrastructure Package Includes Major Investments In Western Water

After months of discussions and negotiations, a bipartisan group of senators reached an agreement with the White House on a federal infrastructure investment package. On July 28, the U.S. Senate voted 67-32 to move forward with the deal, which includes significant financial support for Western water infrastructure and conservation programs.  

The compromise package includes $8.3 billion in Western water funding sought by a broad-based group of agricultural, business, and conservation organizations, including the Colorado River District.  

The funding includes $3.2 billion for aging infrastructure and $1.15 billion for water storage and conveyance, as well as funds for water recycling, desalination, rural water projects, dam safety, the Colorado River Basin Drought Contingency plan, waterSMART grants, watershed health, and aquatic ecosystems. 

“These proposed investments are important to productive agriculture, healthy rivers and water security in Western Colorado and throughout the Colorado River Basin,” says Zane Kessler, Director of Government Relations for the Colorado River District. “We’re glad to see that Congress is paying attention to the needs of Western water users.”  

The bipartisan package also contains $50 million for the Colorado River endangered fish recovery programs, which help to ensure federal Endangered Species Act compliance for some 2,500 western water projects, including every Reclamation project upstream of Lake Powell in Wyoming, Utah, New Mexico and Colorado.  

Earlier this year, the Colorado River District added its name to a coalition of over 200 Western agricultural organizations and urban and rural water districts urging the federal government to further bolster investment in the nation’s aging water facilities. 

Since January, the coalition has been calling on the Biden Administration and congressional leaders to invest in a diversified water management portfolio that enhances water supply and quality for urban and environmental uses, while keeping water flowing to Western farms and rural communities. 

The complete infrastructure package is currently making its way through the U.S. Senate, where Senators in both parties are still seeking to make final changes before the bill leaves the chamber. If approved by the Senate, the Bill would then have to be passed by the U.S. House of Representatives before heading to President Biden’s desk for signature.