Federal Water Policy

Federal Water Policy

While many of the decisions about our water future lie in the hands of state and local decision makers, there are also ways that we work with the federal government to promote smart water policies.

Federal Farm Bill Reauthorization Provides Western Irrigators with New, Dedicated Funding and Streamlined Programs

Last year one of our goals was to ensure the 2018 Farm Bill increased federal investment in critical Western drought resiliency and water supply infrastructure programs.  Despite partisan divides, a reauthorization of this broad-based bill was passed in December and signed by President Trump. We worked with members of Congress on both sides of the aisle on the bill’s “conservation title” urging leaders to consider the needs of Western irrigators and the ongoing drought as they worked on the bill.

Reauthorized for five years, the 2018 Farm Bill will provide hundreds of millions in dedicated federal funds to modernize Western irrigation systems;  improve access to the popular Regional Conservation Partnership Program; make it easier for Western growers to access funds from the Environmental Quality Improvement Program for projects that conserve water; and remove barriers in the Watershed and Flood Prevention Operations programs, promoting watershed-wide projects to foster drought resilience.  Each of these programs will bring water efficiencies and enable irrigators to better address long-term drought risks in the Colorado River Basin.

These programs will help the Colorado River Basin states implement water demand management and conservation strategies across the Colorado River Basin as the Basin faces a shortage declaration in the next few years. This is good news for the local communities and economies that rely on the  Colorado River system.

We will continue working to ensure these programs are fully funded and implemented to benefit agriculture, irrigation and the rivers throughout the West. Corporations with major operations and major Western chambers of commerce in the Southwest/Colorado River basin recently sent a letter to the USDA supporting the funding and implementation of key elements of the 2018 Farm Bill- click here to read the letter.

Drought Contingency Planning in the States will Require Federal Legislation

To meet obligations to the federal government, leaders from Arizona, California and Nevada have come together to negotiate an agreement that will work hand-in-hand to store more water in Lake Mead. This agreement is called the Lower Basin Drought Contingency Plan, or LBDCP, and it is critical for long-term water security to sustain Arizona’s economic future.

After two years of negotiations with all stakeholders in the state the Arizona Legislature acted in time to pass the legislation to implement Arizona’s version of Drought Contingency Plan on January 31, 2019 with the legislature passing the bill almost unanimously and AZ Gov. Ducey signing it that night. Read more here on the passage of the bill.

Final agreements in the state will need to be worked out and Congress will need to act for final passage and for all of the Basin States DCP to implemented. We will be monitoring how that develops and continue to use our corporate voices to advocate for the importance of the DCP. Newly appointed Arizona Senator Martha McSally has been named the new chair of the Water and Power Subcommittee in the Senate and we are working with her staff to educate her on the Arizona aspects of the DCP as well as the importance to the entire Colorado River Basin for the federal legislation to be passed.

To educate members of Congress and staff on Western water needs and priorities in the 2018 Farm Bill, BWS joined leadership of the Irrigation Association (IA) on a Washington, DC fly-in. Joining the trip as members of the IA and BWS were Warren Gorowitz, VP of Sustainability for Ewing Irrigation and Landscape Supply in Phoenix; and Bryce Carnehl, Sales Manager for Hunter Industries in San Diego.