Biden funds $4 billion project to fight Colorado River 'megadrought' affecting millions


Funds allocated under the Inflation Reduction Act will be used to combat drought conditions in Southwestern states.

On Wednesday, the Department of the Interior announced that $4 billion allocated in the Inflation Reduction Act will be used to fund a program designed to improve the multi-state Colorado River system, which has been affected by a major drought.

The law, signed by President Joe Biden on Aug. 16, includes a total of $369 billion for new energy and climate change infrastructure.

The funding announced on Wednesday will go toward the creation by the Interior Department's Bureau of Reclamation of the Lower Colorado River Basin System Conservation and Efficiency Program, which will fund projects focused on mitigating the ongoing drought conditions.

In the department's announcement of the allocation, Interior Secretary Deb Haaland said:

I have seen firsthand how climate change is exacerbating the drought crisis and putting pressure on the communities who live across Western landscapes. Thanks to historic funding from the Inflation Reduction Act, the Interior Department is committed to using every resource available to conserve water and ensure that irrigators, Tribes and adjoining communities receive adequate assistance and support to build resilient communities and protect our water supplies.

Water from the Colorado River basin is used by farmers on 4.5 million acres of land. The Colorado Springs Gazette noted in June that farmers will be forced to leave fields fallow in order to aid water conservation efforts. Funds under the new Interior program will be used to pay them for some of the losses they will experience in coming years.

In a study published in the journal Nature Climate Change in February, scientists from the University of California, Los Angeles, Columbia University, and the NASA Goddard Institute for Space Studies note:

A previous reconstruction back to 800 CE indicated that the 2000–2018 soil moisture deficit in southwestern North America was exceeded during one megadrought in the late-1500s. Here, we show that after exceptional drought severity in 2021, ~19% of which is attributable to anthropogenic climate trends, 2000–2021 was the driest 22-yr period since at least 800. This drought will very likely persist through 2022, matching the duration of the late-1500s megadrought.

Haley Paul, the policy director for Audubon Southwest, warned in a website column this month that continuing high levels of water consumption in the face of drought-induced shortages is leading to a crisis: "If we keep doing what we're doing, and take water out of the reservoirs—not because it's wise but because the law allows it—our system as we know it would crash. Water could not be released from Lakes Powell or Mead. A 'Day Zero.' This is bad for ALL water users in the Colorado River basin."

The Biden administration has prioritized environmental policy addressing climate change and supporting investment in domestic businesses and jobs.

In addition to the Inflation Reduction Act, money allocated under the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act is being used to fund the deployment of half a million electric vehicle chargers along 53,000 miles of interstate highway. Incentives in the Inflation Reduction Act have already convinced auto manufacturers to open production facilities in America for electric vehicles and batteries.

In February the administration announced plans to directly invest in efforts to increase domestic production of rare earth minerals, a key component in electric vehicles. Currently, most of those minerals are being produced in China.

Published with permission of The American Independent Foundation.