WASHINGTON—As the worst drought in 1,200 years grips communities across the West and wildfires continue to burn across the state of New Mexico, U.S. Senator Martin Heinrich (D-N.M.) joined U.S. Representative Melanie Stansbury (D-N.M.) in announcing a bipartisan, bicameral legislative package to address drought and water security across the United States.
Senator Heinrich has introduced the Water Data and Security Act of 2022 in the Senate alongside U.S. Senator Ben Ray Luján (D-N.M.). The legislation is scheduled to be heard in an upcoming legislative hearing before the Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources. U.S. Representative Melanie Stansbury (D-N.M.) has introduced the Water Data Act and the Rio Grande Water Security Act as companion legislation in the U.S. House of Representatives. U.S. Representatives Teresa Leger Fernández (D-N.M.) and Yvette Herrell (D-N.M.) are original cosponsors in the House.
“In the face of threats from the climate crisis, it is critical that we unite our efforts to protect our most precious resource – our water,” said Heinrich. “We’ve made historic progress on funding water infrastructure projects through the Infrastructure Law. Now, I’m proud to lead on both of these pieces of legislation to collect important data and create science-based resilience and coordination plans to protect the health and vitality of this river that so many New Mexicans depend upon.”
“Water is life and the lifeblood of our communities,” said Stansbury. “As we face historic drought and wildfires, we must address the immediate needs of our communities while transforming water management across the West. These bills will provide the essential resources and coordination we need to tackle our biggest water challenges, in partnership with our farmers and ranchers, acequia mayordomos, and communities who live these realities every day. I am proud to introduce this bipartisan legislation with wide support from across the United States and call on Congress to take urgent action to address our drought and water challenges now—so that our communities have the tools they need.”
“As our environment continues to face threats due to climate change, our government must be prepared to protect and preserve vital resources like the Rio Grande,” said Luján. “I’m joining my New Mexico colleagues to introduce this legislation to bring together federal officials and local stakeholders to develop the best tools and resources to ensure the long-term success of the Rio Grande and the communities that rely on it. I’m pleased this legislative package also includes a much-needed reauthorization to continue studying irrigation infrastructure on Tribal and Pueblo lands.”
“Our precious waters are part of New Mexico and who we are. As we develop solutions to preserve these invaluable resources, it is important that our water managers and users have the best facts and data to make decisions. This is more important than ever as we continue to face unprecedented water shortages and droughts driven by climate change. Data is only as good as our ability to use it - the Water Data Act will ensure that we’re making information on our water resources accessible, coordinated, and understandable so it can serve nuestra gente.” said Leger Fernández.
“Ensuring that federal agencies adopt coordinated standards for reporting water data will enable states, tribes, and local communities to more easily access this information, which is vital during the severe drought conditions in New Mexico is currently experiencing,” said Herrell. “This same collaboration will be necessary across the West as major water sources, such as the Rio Grande, are strained due to dry conditions. Government accountability and transparency should not be a partisan issue and I am pleased to be cosponsor of the bi-partisan Water Data Act.”
The Water Data Act will:
- Establish a national water data framework for sharing, integrating, and utilizing water data and supporting the development of innovative water data technologies and tools.
- Develop common standards for water data to unlock the power of existing and future data for use in countless tools and technologies to empower water users and managers.
- Organize and direct federal agencies that generate and use water data to work together.
- Support consultation, coordination, and partnerships with stakeholders by permanently authorizing the Advisory Committee on Water Information.
- Establish a new grant program under the Department of the Interior to invest in improving water data in partnership with state, local, and other organizations.
- Invest in next-generation water data technologies and tools to transform water management.
The Rio Grande Water Security Act will:
- Bring vital coordination and resources to address water security needs across the Rio Grande.
- Develop an integrated water resources management plan for the Rio Grande Basin using the best available science, data, and local knowledge to improve water conservation, address community water needs, and restore this iconic river and its tributaries.
- Convene a Rio Grande Basin Working Group to provide recommendations to improve infrastructure, data, and monitoring, increase water conservation, and improve collaboration across the Basin for the next three decades.
- Reauthorize a critical program to invest in Pueblo irrigation infrastructure.
The Water Data Act is supported by a diverse coalition of water experts and organizations, farmers, and communities across the United States, including New Mexico Farm & Livestock Bureau, National Groundwater Association, The Water Foundation, the Internet of Water Initiative, the New Mexico Bureau of Geology and Mineral Resources, We the People of Detroit, the Interstate Council on Water Policy, and Family Farm Alliance.
To view letters of support for this legislation, click here.