A national coalition of over 200 agricultural organizations and urban and rural water districts urged President-elect Joe Biden and congressional leadership today to address aging Western water infrastructure in any potential infrastructure or economic recovery package.
The coalition includes organizations from 15 states that collectively represent $120 billion in agricultural production, nearly one-third of all agricultural production in the country, and tens of millions of urban and rural water users.
In separate letters to President-elect Biden and congressional leaders, the coalition said existing Western water infrastructure is in desperate need of rehabilitation and improvement. Most of the federal water projects in the West were built more than 50 years ago and were not designed with the present and future population demands and climate conditions in mind. Without immediate attention, the coalition said, the Western water system will quickly prove inadequate to meet the needs of urban and rural users and the environment.
The coalition encouraged the federal government to invest in a diversified water management portfolio that enhances water supply and quality for urban and environmental uses while keeping water flowing to Western farms. Specific recommendations include funding for:
- Water conservation.
- Water recycling, reuse and desalination projects.
- New water storage facilities, both surface and groundwater.
- Watershed management, fish passage and recovery, and habitat restoration.
- Federal financing mechanisms for water projects.
- Loans for local districts operating and maintaining federally owned irrigation projects.
- Water quality improvement for rural communities.
Beyond financial support, the coalition also called on the federal government to ensure the timely construction of water projects by streamlining the regulation and permitting processes.
“While many think of infrastructure in terms of highways, bridges and other transportation facilities, there is an equally compelling need for federal investment in water infrastructure across the West. Meaningful and timely federal investment in water infrastructure, along with a regulatory system that prioritizes efficiency and completion of projects, is necessary to preserve our farms and strengthen our rural communities in the West,” said Western Growers President and CEO Dave Puglia.
“Federal investment in water projects will bring widespread benefits to the environment and throughout the American economy, and will provide jobs, both in rural communities throughout the West and in communities across the country where the equipment and materials for the projects would be produced,” California Farm Bureau President Jamie Johansson said.
“Water is the lifeblood of the West. Without reliable and affordable water supplies, every sector of our economy would suffer – from agriculture, to manufacturing and high-tech, to local community needs. As Congress and President-elect Biden considers an infrastructure stimulus package, it is of paramount importance that maintenance, rehabilitation and development of water infrastructure is a high priority,” said Family Farm Alliance Executive Director Dan Keppen.
“A reliable water supply is a front-line defense in the effort to prevent the spread of COVID-19. It is also a cornerstone of our nation’s economy and the environment. Investing in water infrastructure will jumpstart the economy with jobs and provide sustained economic activity by allowing farms, industry and communities to grow and thrive,” stated National Water Resources Association Executive Vice President Ian Lyle.
“For the well-being of the people of this country and our nation’s economy, we stand together in calling for our leaders in Washington, D.C. to join us as partners in making the essential investments in our aging water infrastructure across America that are so long overdue,” Association of California Water Agencies Executive Director Dave Eggerton said.
Click here for a list of signatories to the letter.
About Association of California Water Agencies:
The Association of California Water Agencies (ACWA) serves the water industry and the public by promoting local agencies as the most efficient means of providing water service; sharing reliable scientific and technical information; tracking and shaping state and federal water policy; advocating for sound legislation and regulation; and facilitating cooperation and consensus among all interest groups. For more than a century, ACWA’s mission has been clear: to help members promote the development, management and use of good quality water at the lowest practical cost and in an environmentally responsible manner.
About California Farm Bureau Federation:
The California Farm Bureau Federation works to protect family farms and ranches on behalf of nearly 32,000 members statewide and as part of a nationwide network of more than 5.5 million Farm Bureau members.
About Family Farm Alliance:
The Family Farm Alliance is a powerful advocate for family farmers, ranchers, irrigation districts, and allied industries in seventeen Western states. The Alliance is focused on one mission – To ensure the availability of reliable, affordable irrigation water supplies to Western farmers and ranchers.
About National Water Resources Association:
National Water Resources Association advocates federal policies, legislation, and regulations promoting protection, management, development, and beneficial use of water resources. The association is dedicated to achieving sustainable water supply for all beneficial uses in an economical and environmentally responsible manner.
About Western Growers:
Founded in 1926, Western Growers represents local and regional family farmers growing fresh produce in Arizona, California, Colorado and New Mexico. Our members and their workers provide over half the nation’s fresh fruits, vegetables and tree nuts, including nearly half of America’s fresh organic produce. Some members also farm throughout the U.S. and in other countries so people have year-round access to nutritious food. For generations, we have provided variety and healthy choices to consumers. Connect with and learn more about Western Growers on our Twitter and Facebook.