water sprinkler system irrigates a field

Aug 31, 2022
Ag groups seek quick availability of water project funding

A coalition of agriculture groups in the western U.S. is asking federal officials to immediately implement drought funding in the Inflation Reduction Act.

Western Growers, the Agribusiness and Water Council of Arizona, Family Farm Alliance and Farm Bureau Federation state members Arizona, California, Colorado and Oregon signed the letter.

The legislation includes $4 billion for water-saving efforts in the Colorado River Basin and other drought-stricken areas. Prompt action is needed to remedy severe effects of the drought, according to the letter.

“This is particularly important in areas like the Imperial Valley in California and Yuma, Arizona, where large-scale winter-time agricultural production occurs,” according to coalition members. “The process and timing for distributing drought response funding must recognize and be responsive to this reality.”

The letter went to Department of the Interior Secretary Deb Haaland and Bureau of Reclamation Commissioner Camille Calimlim Touton. Coalition members wrote to offer their support, assistance and counsel to immediately implement drought funding.

The coalition seeks steps to speed up the process:

  • The Bureau of Reclamation should quickly release a Notice of Funding Availability with guidance to water managers developing drought response proposals and urgently deploy that funding to address the most critical needs.
  • As the Bureau of Reclamation develops a plan, it should work with local water managers, set goals focused on driving the voluntary participation needed, and keep the process, selection criteria and any necessary agreements simple and transparent.
  • Any program designed to temporarily reduce agricultural water use must recognize the value of lost production, the extended impact on the rural community and the cost of developing incremental new water supplies. It is also important to avoid any actions that result in permanent disruptions to our long-tern capacity to produce the food and fiber that is relied upon in the U.S. and across the globe.
  • Agriculture should not be the only sector expected to reduce water use for the benefit of river systems. Urban planners and water users must also seriously address growth and reduce overall use or diversions to protect these systems.

“In addition to focusing on critically needed, near-term steps to endure the current drought, it is essential that we also continue to advance solutions that will improve water management in the long-term,” according to the letter. “These opportunities include forest restoration activities that improve the health and productivity of our watersheds that are severely out of balance, robust conservation and efficiency measures and augmentation of supply ranging from groundwater development and recycling to new conveyance and storage, where appropriate.”

The full letter is available online.

PHOTO: A water sprinkler system irrigates a field in the southern region of the San Joaquin Valley in Kern County, California. West Coast growers are battling the toughest water challenges in recent history. Photo: California Department of Water Resources

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