"A once-in-a-lifetime opportunity": National ag, water coalition applauds Senate passage of infrastructure bill
A national coalition representing thousands of Western farmers, ranchers, water providers, businesses and communities has underscored the significance of Senate passage of the bipartisan Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act on Tuesday and urged the House to mirror the water provisions in its own infrastructure package.
The bill's passage comes as nearly two-thirds of the West experience extreme or exceptional drought conditions, and more than 90 active wildfires burning across the U.S.
“The Western water provisions included in this package represent a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to invest in a reliable and sustainable water supply that supports our farms, businesses and rural and urban communities,” Family Farm Alliance Executive Director Dan Keppen said.
"We applaud the bipartisan approach taken by our Senate champions in moving this solution forward at a time of unprecedented drought in the West."
To address critical Western water supply needs, the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act includes more than $8 billion to repair aging dams and canals; build new surface and groundwater storage and conveyance facilities; fund water conservation and recycling projects; and enhance watershed management and improve ecosystems.
"With drought conditions continuing to worsen throughout the West, now is the time to invest and make timely improvements in our nation’s water management portfolio,” California Farm Bureau President Jamie Johansson said.
"The diverse investments in Western water infrastructure and our national forestlands included in this package will assist farmers, ranchers, water providers and rural communities impacted by wildfires, water shortages and a changing hydrology."
Importantly, the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act aligns with the solutions water managers across the West have requested for years and provides a balanced package of tools that local and regional managers can select from to best resolve the water needs and challenges in their local communities.
“We need to make major investments, including in water recycling, ecosystem restoration, desalination and storage projects to modernize and upgrade our water infrastructure to ensure local, safe, reliable, high quality water now and in future years. This bipartisan legislation accomplishes that,” Association of California Water Agencies Executive Director Dave Eggerton said.
Changing Western hydrological conditions and expanding populations require immediate federal investments in repairing aging water infrastructure and developing new sources of water supply. The infrastructure package also represents a historic opportunity to aid in the nation’s economic recovery. Both workers and the economy will benefit from the increased demand for equipment and materials these water projects will require from American companies.
“With this vote, the Senate has made a historic investment in water infrastructure, which will pay dividends for our communities, our economy and our environment, both now and into the future. We thank the Senate for its vote and encourage the House to take up and pass this critical legislation,” National Water Resources Association Executive Vice President Ian Lyle added.
“We commend the Senate for taking this historic action. Without access to a safe, reliable and affordable water supply, the long-term viability of our family farms and rural communities in the West are in jeopardy, along with more than 80 percent of all U.S. fruit, vegetable and tree nut production,” Western Growers President and CEO Dave Puglia said.
"As the current drought has demonstrated, time is running out, which is why we call on the House to act with urgency and pass the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act without delay."
The coalition includes more than 220 organizations from 15 states that collectively represent $120 billion in agricultural production—nearly one-third of all agricultural production in the country—and many of the local and regional public water agencies that supply water to more than 75 million urban, suburban and rural residents.