Drought Requires Investment, Conservation ”Albuquerque Journal
DENVER – Dealing with the historic drought that has a firm grip on the American West requires a heavy federal investment in infrastructure to protect existing water supplies, but will also depend on efforts at all levels of government to reduce demand by promoting water efficiency and recycling, said the US Secretary of the Interior. Deb Haaland said Thursday.
Haaland told reporters in Denver that the Biden administration’s proposed budget for fiscal 2022 includes a $ 1.5 billion investment in the Bureau of Reclamation, which manages water and electricity in Western states. , and more than $ 54 million for states, tribes and communities to modernize water planning infrastructure and projects.
“Drought doesn’t just affect a community. It affects us all – from farmers and ranchers to townspeople and Indian tribes. We all have a role to use water wisely, ”Haaland said at the start of a three-day visit to Colorado to discuss the United States’ response to increasingly scarce water and fires. massive forest that is burning throughout the region. Haaland is a former US Congresswoman from Albuquerque.
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The American West is in the throes of the worst drought in modern history, including most of western Colorado. The northern part of the state is experiencing flash floods and deadly mudslides after rains fell in areas marked by massive forest fires last year. Fires burn in the West, most severely in Oregon and California, as drought strains major rivers like the Colorado River and reservoirs that support millions of people.
Drought and recent heat waves in the region which are linked to climate change have made forest fires more difficult to fight. Climate change has made the West much hotter and drier over the past 30 years and will continue to make weather conditions more extreme and forest fires bigger and more destructive.
Haaland spoke after meeting Democratic Rep. Diana DeGette, Governor Jared Polis and Jim Lochhead, CEO of Denver Water, Colorado’s largest water agency, for a discussion on the drought and possible federal solutions.
Among other initiatives, she said the Bureau of Reclamation is working to identify and provide “immediate technical and financial assistance to affected irrigators and Indian tribes.”
Tanya Trujillo, deputy secretary of the department for water and science, cited a recent decision to release water from several reservoirs in the upper Colorado River basin to supply Lake Mead and Lake Powell – the two man-made reservoirs that store water from the Colorado River.
Reservoirs are shrinking faster than expected, causing panic in an area that depends on the river to support 40 million people. Federal officials expect to make the first-ever declaration of water scarcity in the Colorado River Basin next month, resulting in cuts in Arizona, Nevada and Mexico.
“We have seen worse hydrological projections than expected,” Trujillo said.
Haaland’s three-day stay in Colorado includes his first trip Friday to the new headquarters of the Bureau of Land Management in Grand Junction, created by the Trump administration in 2019.