WASHINGTON, D.C. - Today, U.S. Sens. Tom Udall and Martin Heinrich heralded the Bureau of Reclamation's more than $2.2 million investment in drought relief projects in New Mexico, which was made possible by funding Udall secured in last December's "omnibus" funding bill. The funds recently released for Western drought response include $700,000 for construction of the Eastern New Mexico Water Supply Project, $1 million for voluntary water leasing in the Middle Rio Grande and $500,000 for voluntary water leasing within the Pecos River's Carlsbad Project.
"Water is the lifeblood of the West, but persistent drought has hurt farmers and ranchers, and kept many New Mexico communities from reaching their full potential," Udall said. "That's why I've advocated smart investments in our water infrastructure and immediate relief for communities hit hardest by drought. These new funds for water leasing in the Middle Rio Grande and the Pecos directly benefit farmers with an extra source of income and preserve our living rivers, while the Eastern New Mexico project will ensure Clovis and Cannon Air Force Base have reliable access to water well into the future."
"The ongoing drought has taken a heavy toll on our state," Heinrich said."Resources to construct a new water project in eastern New Mexico will help provide a reliable water supply for local communities and Cannon Air Force Base. And investments in water leasing in Carlsbad and Middle Rio Grande will give much needed flexibility to water managers in a time of increasing water scarcity. I'm committed to ensuring these kinds of investments remain funded so communities can count on future water supplies."
The funds for Eastern New Mexico Water Supply will help construct a pipeline to transport a new source of groundwater to Clovis and Cannon Air Force bases, prolonging the lifespan of existing water sources. The new funding for voluntary water leasing in the Middle Rio Grande is the result of Udall's plan to encourage the Bureau of Reclamation to develop a long-term water-supply program to meet the environmental needs of the Basin without burdensome restrictions on other users.
The announcement also includes $9 million in additional funding for competitive grants like WaterSMART, which supports local water management projects that conserve and use water more efficiently, increase their use of renewable energy, protect endangered species and facilitate water markets. Udall encourages New Mexico water organizations to learn about this funding program, collaborate, and apply for these funds where appropriate.
The following is a breakdown of funding for New Mexico:
Middle Rio Grande Project: $1 million
These funds for water leasing will be coming from the Environmental Restoration and Compliance Account. The project deals with irrigation and maintenance of dams along the river, among other things related to sedimentation and flood control. The water leasing program will promote flexible drought response along the Rio Grande to minimize water conflicts between agricultural and environmental uses.
Eastern New Mexico Water Supply project: $700,000
These funds will be coming from the Rural Water account. The project is a 151 mile-long pipeline project to provide a sustainable municipal and industrial water supply project for several communities and Cannon Air Force Base.
Carlsbad Water Project: $500,000
These funds will be coming from the Western Drought Response account. The funding will help secure a significant amount of water to release and keep the river continuous allowing the threatened Pecos Bluntnose Shiner population to recover.
Other items of note include:
Native American Affairs Program (NAAP): $4 million
These funds will be allocated to multiple non-Bureau of Indian Affairs projects on multiple reservations for several types of projects, including irrigation system improvement to enhance efficiencies; groundwater development for potable water for human, livestock and wildlife needs; water storage improvements; and emergency response improvements for wildfires.
WaterSMART Grants: $4.5 million
The additional $4.5 million allocated to WaterSMART Grants will enable Reclamation to select five-10 additional high-ranking water management improvement projects proposed for funding by non-federal entities. WaterSMART grants are critically important to New Mexico and address drought-related issues to help build resilience in areas affected by drought. The grants are cost-shared with at least 50 percent non-federal funding, meaning that this additional funding will be leveraged to accomplish on-the-ground improvements.