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Hickenlooper, Lummis, Wyden, Introduce Bills to Extend Drought Relief, Water Monitoring Programs

May 2, 2024

WASHINGTON – Today, U.S. Senators John Hickenlooper, Cynthia Lummis, and Ron Wyden introduced two bipartisan bills to extend existing programs to continue important water management programs and address long-term drought in the West. The Drought Preparedness Act and the Water Data Improvement Act would reauthorize current programs managed by the U.S. Department of Interior (DOI) and the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) to help secure water infrastructure, prepare drought contingency plans, and improve water monitoring.

Companion legislation has been introduced in the House of Representatives by Representative Joe Neguse. The Drought Preparedness Act passed the House and the Water Data Improvement Act has passed out of the House Committee on Natural Resources. 

“Long-term aridification is threatening our way of life in the West,” said Hickenlooper. “Extending existing, proven water programs will let us spend more time measuring and saving our water and less time reinventing the wheel.”

“The west continues to lead the nation in water conservation and management practices and is home to some of the best and brightest experts in this field,” said Lummis. “By extending successful programs, we will improve water quality, secure our water infrastructure and ensure we remain good stewards of our natural resources, and I will continue to work with my colleagues to preserve these successful policies.”

“Time and time again, Oregon and the entire West have been hit hard by extreme drought,” Wyden said. “It’s not only critical that communities are better prepared to respond to droughts, but also that more is being done to prevent drought as best we can. These bills will make sure communities nationwide have water readily available to them so that their livelihoods are not diminished during and after a drought.”

“The Colorado River is a critical lifeline for our state, and right now it faces a crisis of ongoing periods of exceptional drought. The measures included in these bills support tremendous progress toward preserving our nation’s water sources and mitigating drought threats. I am proud to have secured passage of the Drought Preparedness Act through the House, and will continue to push to advance the Water DATA Improvement Act — and am excited and grateful to partner with Senator Hickenlooper and his colleagues on the same. Let’s keep the momentum going,” said Neguse.

The Drought Preparedness Act would:

  • Reauthorize the Reclamation States Emergency Drought Relief Act through 2028
  • Continue authorities for DOI to prepare drought contingency plans and provide technical assistance to State, local, and Tribal governments on their drought contingency plans
  • Maintain authorities for DOI loans to water users for drought mitigation projects
  • Support emergency response actions to minimize damages from drought

The Water Data Improvement Act would:

  • Support the National Groundwater Resources Monitoring Network, which promotes collaborative groundwater monitoring between federal, state, and local programs, by reauthorizing the program at $4 million annually
  • Reauthorize the National Streamflow Information Program at $10 million annually to help monitor water levels
  • Improve water estimation and monitoring technologies by reauthorizing the grant programs for agencies, academic institutions, and private entities to develop and implement new methodologies and technologies
  • Improve collaboration between DOI and other federal and state agencies to streamline and centralize water data collection systems and water supply forecasting techniques

As governor, Hickenlooper helped negotiate the Colorado River Basin Drought Contingency Plan which sought to manage demand in order to maintain Lake Powell and Lake Mead levels, ensure compliance with the 1922 Colorado River Compact, and stave off mandatory cuts from the Bureau of Reclamation.

In the Senate, Hickenlooper has convened bipartisan discussions among the Colorado River Basin senators to discuss common sense solutions to help address the Colorado River crisis. In August 2022, Hickenlooper played an instrumental role passing the Inflation Reduction Act, which secured $4 billion to address drought in the American West by funding water conservation, habitat restoration and drought mitigation efforts.

Text of the Drought Preparedness Act available HERE and the Water Data Improvement Act is available HERE.


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