The forward-looking legislation was introduced by Congresswoman Xochitl Torres Small, alongside U.S. Senators Tom Udall and Martin Heinrich, Assistant Speaker Ben Ray Luján and Congresswoman Deb Haaland. It will arm communities with the federal funding and research necessary to grapple with the potential of a long-term drying trend in the West and changes in water availability exacerbated by climate change.
The Western Water Security Act is supported by a number of organizations including the Audubon Society, the Nature Conservancy, Trout Unlimited, the National Wildlife Federation, the State of New Mexico, the Elephant Butte Irrigation District, and the Middle Rio Grande Conservancy District.
The Western Water Security Act of 2019 would expand and enhance water infrastructure through:
- Invest in WaterSMART – This bill will give an additional $120 million to the Bureau of Reclamation’s WaterSMART program, which helps water users throughout the West tackle water security through common-sense solutions, such as investments in conservation and efficiency. The bill would build on the success of this popular program and make eligible for grants non-governmental organizations – who have played an invaluable role throughout the West helping to promote water efficiency. The bill also expands the authority of States and Indian Tribes to declare a drought emergency and access vital drought emergency funds when confronted with any water crisis or conflict. This federal assistance could then go towards projects designed to secure reliable water supplies for vulnerable communities and restore the environment to benefit imperiled fish and wildlife.
- Rural Desalination – This authorizes an additional $65 million to support desalination design and construction, setting aside $15 million for rural desalination projects.
- Groundwater Management – Through the reauthorization and expansion of the Transboundary Aquifer Assessment Program (TAAP), Arizona, New Mexico, and Texas, in partnership with water institutes throughout the West and the U.S. Geological Survey, can collaborate with Mexican water management officials to study this shared resource.
- Water Conservation and Environmental Restoration – The legislation reauthorizes the Cooperative Watershed Management Program, an important program that brings together stakeholders from throughout the basin to find local solutions for their local water management needs. The bill also creates a pilot water leasing program that provides the Bureau of Reclamation and local water districts with increased flexibility to move water where it can be of the most use, including for environmental purposes – a potential model for other water districts throughout the west.
The Text in full length is available here.