News Feature | July 10, 2014

Can Washington Provide Relief From Water Scarcity?

Sara Jerome

By Sara Jerome


Senator Tom Udall, D-N.M., is looking for a legislative fix to water scarcity. 

In June, he "introduced legislation calling for more funding and scientific research as New Mexico grapples with its fourth straight year of severe drought and increasing water scarcity," the Associated Press reported

Udall consulted with ranchers, farmers, irrigation managers, and communities on the legislation, the report said. A summary of the bill is available on Udall's website

"The bill reauthorizes the Reclamation States Emergency Drought Relief Act and increases its authorized amount by $100 million," Albuquerque Business First reported

Udall stressed the economic ramifications of water scarcity.

“Water is critical to our economy and our ability to grow, but scientists predict that water scarcity will continue years into the future. Doing more with less is a challenge I know we can meet — but we have to work together," he said in a statement, per Business First. 

He also noted that Washington is not always a great place to look for funding these days. 

"Federal government resources for new water projects are increasingly scarce, but by being smart, flexible, and adaptive, we can manage the water we have and continue to grow and thrive. That’s the purpose of this bill – to best use available federal resources to help New Mexico become more efficient and effective so that water is there when users need it," he said. 

The bill provides a sizable amount of funding. "The legislation calls for making as much as $100 million available for drought relief, which could include water exchanges between different districts, emergency pumping projects, activities to reduce demand and pilot projects for developing brackish water," the AP report said. 

Where would the money go? 

"The bill would authorize $18 million to help irrigation districts make their systems more efficient and to install measuring devices that would clear the way for leasing programs," the report said. 

"Another $30 million would be used for a water-acquisition program in which voluntary sellers would provide water to benefit endangered species and river restoration around the state," the report said. 

The senator also said he played a role in pushing funding for water projects in a key appropriations bill. 

"The bill provides $81 million for the construction of the Navajo-Gallup Water Supply Project and the historic 2010 Navajo Nation Water Rights Settlement Agreement. The project will supply water to the eastern portion of the Navajo Nation, the southwestern portion of the Jicarilla Apache Nation and the city of Gallup, serving the future water needs of approximately 250,000 people," Udall said in a separate press release

Check out Water Online's Water Scarcity Solution Center

Image credit: "Washington DC_cherry blossoms on the Tidal Basin," robposse © 2011, used under an Attribution 2.0 Generic license: