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.

Drought Contingency Planning Passes Congress in Less than 24 Hours

Proving that water truly is a bi-partisan issue, this week Congress passed landmark, bipartisan legislation to protect the Colorado River and the nearly 1 in 8 Americans that rely on it for their drinking water and livelihoods.

The legislation was signed by the President on April 16, 2019 and provides crucial stability for American companies, communities and ecosystems across the West. The passage of this “Drought Contingency Plan” illustrates how businesses can help lawmakers find common ground across the aisle, and work with them to develop policies that safeguard the natural resources that are vital to our economy. It is a testament to the power of our network.

We sent this letter to Congress from 23 Chambers and business voices urging the passage of this critical legislation and your voice helped! We heard from several lawmakers that the business voice was a key piece of this quick action on the hill. The Colorado River is an economic engine: it supplies drinking water to nearly 40 million people every year, supports 16 million American jobs, generates $1.4 trillion in economic benefits, and irrigates nearly 6 million acres of farmland. We depend on your voices to sustain our work and we are thankful for your support.

Read the Associated Press story on the bill here.

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

BWS worked to make sure the 2018 Farm Bill was reauthorized to increase 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 2018 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  support water efficiencies and enable irrigators to better address long-term drought risks in the Colorado River Basin.

Since reauthorization in 2018 we have worked to ensure that drought programs are fully funded and implemented to benefit agriculture, irrigation and the rivers throughout the West. In early 2019 corporations with major operations and major Western chambers of commerce in the Southwest/Colorado River basin recently sent this letter to the USDA supporting the funding and implementation of key elements of the 2018 Farm Bill.

In November 2019 the Arizona Chamber of Commerce and Industry, the Greater Phoenix Chamber and many other local chambers sent this letter to USDA leaders urging that drought initiatives in the Farm Bill be funded so that agricultural producers can proactively address drought-related risks and concerns. Drought accounts for $4 billion in crop insurance payments annually and is now the single largest cause of U.S. farm production losses, according to John Fleck.  Funding these drought programs would help avoid some of the detrimental financial impacts of a drought, and help lessen the need to respond—to much greater financial burden—in the middle of a drought.

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.

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.