06-20-19 Western Senators Introduce Bipartisan Drought Legislation

Western Senators Introduce Bipartisan Drought Legislation

Washington—Senators Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.), Cory Gardner (R-Colo.), Martha McSally (R-Ariz.) and Kyrsten Sinema (D-Ariz.) today introduced the bipartisan Drought Resiliency and Water Supply Infrastructure Act, a bill to improve the nation’s water supply and drought resiliency.

The legislation builds on Senator Feinstein’s 2016 California drought legislation that was included in the Water Infrastructure Improvements for the Nation (WIIN) Act.

“The effects of climate change are here to stay, and one enormous effect on the West is more – and more severe – droughts,” said Senator Feinstein. “As California continues to recover from a historic drought, the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory now estimates that the Sierra snowpack, a primary source of water for California, will decrease by 79 percent by the end of the century. If we fail to prepare for this contingency, life in California will be forever altered. Longer and more severe droughts will change the face of our state, undermine our economy, result in more wildfires, devastate our agriculture sector and require draconian water restrictions. To counter this, we must act now, and this bill will help toward that goal.”

“In Colorado and the West, combatting drought requires a comprehensive approach. Storage and conservation are key parts of our water resource management,” said Senator Gardner. “Tens of millions of people in the western United States rely on Colorado rivers to provide water for agricultural, municipal and consumptive use, as well as support for our growing recreation economy. In the face of these challenges, I’m proud to be joining this bipartisan legislation that will aid efforts to prevent severe water shortages.”

Key provisions

  • Extends funding under the WIIN Act for an additional five years, including:
    • $670 million for surface and groundwater storage projects, and supporting conveyance.
    • $100 million for water recycling projects.
    • $60 million for desalination projects.
    • Creates a new loan program for water agencies at 30-year Treasury rates (currently about 2.6 percent) to spur investment in new water supply projects. Repayment can be deferred until five years after completion of the project.
    • Authorizes $140 million for habitat restoration and environmental compliance projects, including forest, meadow and watershed restoration and projects that benefit threatened and endangered species.
    • The legislation includes two offsets:
      • Extends existing WIIN Act provisions allowing water districts to prepay their outstanding capital debts and convert to indefinite length water supply contracts to bring in additional revenue within the next 10 years.
      • Creates a process to deauthorize inactive water recycling project authorizations.

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