Policy

Reconciliation package includes $4B for Western drought resilience

Mario Tama/Getty Images
A formerly sunken boat rests on a now-dry section of lakebed at the drought-stricken Lake Mead on May 10 in the Lake Mead National Recreation Area, Nevada. The declining water levels are a result of a climate change-fueled megadrought coupled with increased water demands in the Southwestern United States.

The reconciliation package slated for a congressional vote this weekend includes $4 billion in new funding for the drought pummeling the Western U.S.

The package, dubbed the Inflation Reduction Act, includes the new funding specifically for the Bureau of Reclamation to address the 22-year drought, the worst to hit the region since the year 800, according to a statement from Sens. Michael Bennet (D-Colo.), Catherine Cortez Masto (D-Nev.) and Mark Kelly (D-Az.).

“The Western United States is experiencing an unprecedented drought, and it is essential that we have the resources we need to support our states’ efforts to combat climate change, conserve water resources, and protect the Colorado River Basin,” the senators said in a statement.

“This funding in the Inflation Reduction Act will serve as an important resource for Nevada, Arizona, and Colorado, and the work we’ve done to include it will help secure the West’s water future.”

A Senate source familiar with the funding confirmed to The Hill that the $4 billion is new funding.

After Senate Majority Leader Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) and Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) came to an agreement on a climate and tax package, questions remained about Sen. Kyrsten Sinema’s (D-Ariz.) stance. 

CNN reported this week that Sinema wanted $5 billion in drought funding to be added to the package.

Sinema spokesperson Hannah Hurley said that the additional drought funding played a role in the senator’s agreement to the deal.  

A source familiar with the negotiations said that numbers up to $5 billion for drought resilience were on the table, and that Bennet, Kelly and Cortez-Masto were integral getting the $4 billion figure.

The announcement comes as the drought takes an increasing toll on the region, causing two of the nation’s largest reservoirs, Lake Powell and Lake Mead, to plunge to record lows.

On Thursday evening Sinema confirmed her support for the reconciliation package, securing a majority in the 50-50 Senate.

It is unclear if Sinema was part of the group of Western senators who developed the provision.

Rachel Frazin contributed. 

Tags Catherine Cortez Masto Charles Schumer Chuck Schumer Colorado River region Joe Manchin kyrsten sinema Lake Mead Manchin-Schumer deal Mark Kelly Michael Bennet Reconciliation
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