December 15, 2023 — Two major initiatives were announced by the Bureau of Reclamation this week involving Native American affairs and California’s conservation of Colorado River system water.
Expanding water access for Tribes facing drought.
On December 12, the U.S. Department of the Interior announced a new initiative providing $16.5 million to support Tribes facing severe drought. This funding, part of the Bureau of Reclamation’s Native American Affairs Program, will enhance access to clean and reliable water supplies. A significant portion, $12.5 million, is allocated from President Biden’s Investing in America agenda, funded through the Inflation Reduction Act. Additionally, $4 million is designated for technical assistance and cooperative agreements.
This program has historically funded a range of projects, including irrigation, water systems development, dam safety, and drought relief. Uniquely, this funding requires no cost-sharing, aiding smaller and financially constrained Tribes. Secretary Deb Haaland emphasized the commitment to supporting Tribal communities in the West, particularly in building resilience against climate change. Commissioner Camille Calimlim Touton highlighted the swift distribution of these funds, reflecting a concerted effort to build drought resilience.
Applications are open for Tribes in the 17 Western states served by Reclamation. Grants are available up to $400,000 for technical assistance and $500,000 for emergency drought relief, with a total cap of $1 million per Tribe. More information about these and other opportunities are posted on Reclamation’s Native American Affairs Program website.
California water conservation efforts strengthened, backed by $295 million.
Concurrently, the Biden-Harris administration has announced agreements with several California water agencies to conserve up to 643,000 acre-feet of water in Lake Mead by 2025. These efforts are backed by approximately $295 million from the Investing in America agenda. The agreements, including significant conservation commitments from the Coachella Valley Water District and the Quechan Indian Tribe, are crucial for the sustainability of the Colorado River System. Earlier this month, the Bureau of Reclamation announced that the Biden-Harris administration reached a significant agreement with the Imperial Irrigation District that aimed to conserve about 100,000 acre-feet of water in Lake Mead in 2023.
These conservation agreements are part of a broader strategy to address the challenges posed by drought and climate change. They encompass collaborations with states, Tribes, farmers, and water districts, focusing on water conservation and efficiency. The funding also supports environmental protection efforts in the Colorado River System.
These initiatives are critical in maintaining water levels in Lake Mead and combating the ongoing drought crisis. The Department of the Interior has reported a reduced risk of critical water levels in Lake Powell and Lake Mead through 2026, thanks to these conservation efforts.
Image from a Bureau of Reclamation press release.