The U.S. Senate passed the Inflation Reduction Act of 2022, a multibillion-dollar package, on Aug. 7 tackling issues from climate change to health care costs, where $4 billion would go toward drought relief efforts in the Western U.S.
These drought funds allocated by H.R. 5376 sponsored by John Yarmuth, D-Kentucky, would remain available for 17 reclamation states, “with priority given to the Colorado River Basin and other basins experiencing comparable levels of long-term drought,” according to the bill.
The Western United States is experiencing an unprecedented drought, and the funding in the IRA will serve as an important resource for Nevada, Arizona and Colorado, according to U.S. Sens. Mark Kelly, D-Arizona; Michael Bennet, D-Colorado; and Catherine Cortez Masto, D-Nevada.
“The investments the legislation would make in agricultural conservation program funding and drought mitigation resources are important for the irrigation industry,” says Nathan Bowen, advocacy director at the Irrigation Association, Fairfax, Virginia. “We are monitoring this important legislation and looking for ways to assist the irrigation industry in making the most of potential opportunities in the coming months.”
Administered by the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation over the next four years, the funds would go toward grants, contracts or financial assistance that intend to mitigate drought via voluntary reduced water use and diversions, water conservation projects, environmental efforts, and ecosystem and habitat restoration projects in drought-impacted river basins or inland water bodies, like the Salton Sea in California.
Growers, rural districts and others could be paid to fallow crops and install efficient irrigation methods, according to the Desert Sun. For the about 40 million people across seven U.S. states and Mexico who use the Colorado River’s Lower and Upper Basins for drinking water and irrigation, they could receive payment to voluntarily reduce water use.
Funds would also target urban and agricultural water efficiency projects, such as replacing lawns with drought-resilient landscaping, as well as rural measures, including canal lining and leveling of drainage ditches.
The bill, a greatly reduced iteration of the Build Back Better Act, passed to the House following a 50-50 tiebreaking vote from Vice President Harris, according to The Washington Post. The House is expected to approve the bill and send it on for President Biden’s signature in the coming days.
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