Lindsey Toomer

(Colorado Newsline) U.S. Senator Michael Bennet of Colorado led a group of fellow legislators from Colorado and New Mexico in writing a letter asking the Bureau of Reclamation to seek permanent solutions to the Western drought crisis with its funding from the recent Inflation Reduction Act.

The letter, addressed to Bureau Commissioner Camille Calimlim Touton, asks her department to prioritize permanent solutions as opposed to temporary fixes with $4 billion dedicated to addressing drought.

Bennet, who chairs the Senate Agriculture Committee’s Subcommittee on Conservation, Climate, Forestry and Natural Resources, led the efforts to secure this funding in the Inflation Reduction Act.

Others who signed the letter include U.S. Sens. Ben Ray Luján and Martin Heinrich of New Mexico; U.S. Reps. Joe Neguse, Diana DeGette, Jason Crow and Ed Perlmutter of Colorado; and U.S. Reps. Melanie Stansbury and Teresa Leger Fernández of New Mexico. Colorado and New Mexico have both felt the effects of drought on the Colorado River along with heightened demand for water.

The first priority the lawmakers focused the letter on is to expand resources for local municipalities and tribes that feel the greatest impacts of drought with competitive programs designed to control price gouging. The second priority is directing resources toward permanent solutions on the Colorado River.

“In the middle of a 22-year drought with a hotter, drier future on the horizon, it is imperative for the BOR to focus efforts on a long-term strategy that includes funding opportunities for projects on both a temporary and long-term timeline,” the letter reads. “However, no matter the timeframe of a project, the BOR needs to fund efforts that provide real, meaningful long-term reductions in water use from the River.”

The group of lawmakers asked the Bureau to consistently measure system water losses in both the Upper and Lower basins of the Colorado River, as currently it only accounts for water evaporation in the Upper Basin. The final ask is for the Bureau to look at “new or innovative methods” to reduce water use, leveraging funds in an “effective and efficient manner” with new data, technology and programs to reduce water use across the basin.