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Interior Announces Funding for Drought Response in the West

On February 6th, Secretary of the Interior Sally Jewell announced that the department is making $50 million for its FY 2015 available for drought relief projects.  The funding is available immediately.

More than 60% of the funds will support projects in the Colorado River Basin and throughout the west.  Of that portion, $8.6 million will be used to generate 10,000 AF per year in the Colorado River system.  Under a recently-signed MOU, Reclamation has committed to saving 50,000 AF in the Colorado River System.  (See “Lower Basin States Sign MOU to Stave Off Shortage,” JOW, January 2015, for more on the MOU).  A total of $9 million will fund competitive grants for water conservation, reuse and recycling though WaterSMART and the Title XVI Reclamation and Reuse Program.  A new drought-preparedness program that provides a 50% federal share of costs for states, tribes and local governments to prepare for and address drought issues before a crisis will receive $5 million.

The remaining 40% ($19.9 million) will provide funds for projects and transfers in California’s Central Valley—and an additional $8.8 million that is not considered part of the Western Drought Response will be dedicated for the Central Valley Project.

“With climate change, droughts are projected to become more intense and frequent in many parts of the West, so we need to pursue every measure to provide relief and support to communities who are feeling the impacts,” said Jewell.

Reclamation’s announcement followed the President’s FY 2016 budget proposal—which would include sizeable funding for similar programs, especially in California’s Central Valley—and the West-Wide Climate Risk Assessment—which projects increases in future water needs and decreases in supply due to increased evaporation at reservoirs. (For more on the Climate Risk Assessment, see “Bureau Releases Study of Climate Change on Irrigation Demand and Reservoir Evaporation,” in this issue).

Written by Marta L. Weismann