Sinema talks $4 billion in new drought funding

Aug 15, 2022

Sinema talks $4 billion in new drought funding

Arizona Republic

By Courtney Holmes

The Inflation Reduction Act to address healthcare costs, taxes, and climate, passed Congress on Friday. Included are $4 billion to address the historic drought throughout the west. It was a key issue for Senator Kyrsten Sinema (D-AZ) in order to secure her vote and passage out of the Senate.

On Wednesday, Senator Sinema was in Casa Grande hearing from farmers about what needs to happen next to secure Arizona’s water.

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In Arizona, Pinal County has been the first to feel the pain of less water from the Colorado River. And the cuts have only just begun.

The $4 billion that have been set aside will compensate farmers and others who will be cut off from Colorado river water over the next couple of years and will need to leave their land fallow.

But she knows it won’t be enough.

“What it does is gives us a little bit of time to start thinking about the long-term solutions that are going to involve a lot of strategies, re-use efficiencies [sic], but also innovation and technology,“ Sinema told ABC15.

During a tour at the Hoover Dam on Monday, she announced the creation of a Water Advisory Council to work on solutions.

The situation on the Colorado River continues to worsen every year.

Lakes Mead and Powell are already historically low, and it is expected that Colorado River users will be headed into a Tier 2 water shortage by 2023.

Additionally, the US Bureau of Reclamation has directed the seven basin states to slash an extra two to 4,000,000 acre-feet of water by mid-August.

Colorado, Utah, New Mexico, and Wyoming use less water than the other three states and have indicated they expect California, Arizona, and Nevada to make the most substantial cuts.

But while Arizona and Nevada continue to make both required and voluntary cuts, California continues to take all of its allocations because of the state’s senior rights.

We asked Sinema if it is appropriate for federal agencies to start insisting on aggressive cuts for California.

“We cannot solve our way out of this drought by forcing one or two states to bear the brunt of this. We must work together and I believe that my colleagues from the other seven basin states will join together. We will work collaboratively” she said in response.

Even with the cuts and the billions of dollars invested, the region needs a lot of federal help to secure its water.

We asked Sinema if she thinks that her colleagues in Congress truly understand how dire the situation is in the west given that she had to leverage her vote to secure this latest round of funding in a climate-related bill.

“I can promise you that members of Congress and senators from other parts of the country have no idea how severe the situation is here,” she said. “So it is incumbent upon me and my fellow senators from the basin states to educate our colleagues.”

Sinema said she was originally offered a smaller amount of money just for Arizona but rejected it because she said this current regional problem will one day become a national problem as climate change gets worse.

“It is also a message for the rest of the country,” she said. “We must be more proactive in addressing this issue because other parts of the country will soon be experiencing what we here in Arizona are living with every single day.”