Interior Department Delivers Nearly $30 Million for Drought Resilience in the Upper Colorado River Basin from President’s Investing in America Agenda

Last edited 04/17/2024

Date: Tuesday, April 16, 2024

WASHINGTON — The Department of the Interior today announced a $29.7 million investment from President Biden’s Investing in America agenda to help states in the Upper Colorado River Basin – Colorado, New Mexico, Utah and Wyoming – with drought planning, as part of the all-of-government approach to make western communities more resilient to drought and climate change. This is the second year of funding from the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law, with $38.4 million distributed so far.

The Colorado River Basin provides water for more than 40 million people, fuels hydropower resources in seven U.S. states, supports 5.5 million acres of agriculture and agricultural communities across the West, and is a crucial resource for 30 Tribal Nations and two states in Mexico. Despite improved hydrology in recent months, the historic 23-year drought has led to record low water levels at Lake Powell and Lake Mead. The Biden-Harris administration has led a comprehensive effort to address the ongoing drought and strengthen water security across the region now and into the future.

“The Biden-Harris administration is committed to making communities more resilient to the impacts of climate change — including across the Colorado River Basin and the diverse communities that rely on it,” said Acting Deputy Secretary Laura Daniel-Davis. “Building on our significant milestones this year to protect the Colorado River System, we are continuing to make smart investments through the President’s Investing in America agenda to protect the stability and sustainability of the Colorado River System and increase water efficiency across the West.” 

President Biden’s Investing in America agenda represents the largest investment in climate resilience in the nation’s history and is providing much-needed resources to enhance Western communities’ resilience to drought and climate change. Through the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law, Reclamation is investing a total of $8.3 billion over five years for water infrastructure projects, including rural water, water storage, conservation and conveyance, nature-based solutions, dam safety, water purification and reuse, and desalination. Since the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law was signed in November 2021, Reclamation has announced almost $3 billion for 430 projects. 

This latest round of funding from the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law will help re-activate and install up to 60 stream gages that are in critical reaches of the basin. It will also expand eddy-covariance tower/weather station networks for improved accuracy and confidence in managing water resources. In addition, this funding will be used for new monitoring technology to track water diversion, soil moisture and snowpack in the Upper Basin. This will improve forecasting and help study water balance and flow under different conditions.

“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. There are approximately 1.5 million acres of irrigated agricultural land in the Upper Basin, and we are currently monitoring for evapotranspiration on less than 1 percent of that land,” said Reclamation Commissioner Camille Calimlim Touton. “This funding will provide critical data to help us more accurately measure water use from irrigated agriculture in the Upper Basin, enhancing drought planning now and into the future.” 

Evaluating the impacts related to ongoing drought mitigation efforts and providing science-based approaches will help protect critical infrastructure and minimize the adverse effects of drought on resources and infrastructure in the Upper Basin. Reclamation and the Upper Division States, working through the Upper Colorado River Commission, will use the Drought Contingency Plan-specific Bipartisan Infrastructure Law funding to improve key infrastructure, as well as data-gathering and analysis needs in the Upper Colorado River Basin. 

This investment follows agreements made under the Colorado River Drought Contingency Plan Authorization Act and related agreements to protect the system. A total of $50 million over 4 years will be given to each of the Upper Basin states for Drought Contingency Plan-related activities. 


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