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Domenici & Wilson Introduce Water Grant Legislation

Location: Washington, DC


Senate-House Bills Authorize Water 2025 Grant Program through 2016

WASHINGTON - U.S. Senator Pete Domenici and Congresswoman Heather A. Wilson today announced that they are sponsoring legislation to authorize and expand a federal water assistance program that has been used by New Mexico irrigation districts to improve water use efficiency and conservation.

Domenici has introduced legislation in the Senate, and Wilson will follow with a measure in the House, to authorize the Water 2025 grant program. The bill (S.2561) will formally sanction the grant program which is administered by the Bureau of Reclamation through its Water 2025 initiative. Authorizing the grant program would ensure a steadier flow of federal funding. The Domenici-Wilson legislative effort would allow up to $25 million annually for grant awards through 2016.

The New Mexico lawmakers offered the legislation as one means of providing communities and water systems with an avenue to gain federal assistance for projects related to water conservation, water use efficiency, water markets, enhanced water management, or actions to prevent water-related crises or conflicts in watersheds.

Over the past three years, Water 2025 grants have been awarded to the Middle Rio Grande Conservancy District, Elephant Butte Irrigation District, San Juan River Dineh Water Users Inc., Carlsbad Irrigation District, the city of Las Cruces, and state of New Mexico for work on the Pecos River.

"The goal of this program is to make more water available in water-short river systems through infrastructure conservation and efficiency upgrades," Domenici said. "While not a panacea to our serious water woes, I believe this legislation will help us maximize the water available during times of drought. It can be a stronger tool for New Mexico communities and water systems to use to improve its options on water use and conservation."

"The Rio Grande has managed to accommodate the expanding demands of New Mexico cities, industries, Indian pueblos and endangered species without widespread displacement of its historical agriculture users," Wilson said. "This important legislation will help stretch the limited flows of the Rio Grande, and help prevent a water conflict along the Middle Rio Grande well into the future."

The new legislation authorizes the Secretary of Interior to provide grants on a competitive basis to plan, design, construct, or otherwise implement improvements to conserve water. The goals of the grants would be to increase water use efficiency, facilitate water markets, enhance water management, or implement other actions to prevent water-related crises or conflicts in watersheds that have a nexus to federal water projects in the West. Any grants will require a 50 percent non-federal cost share.

Domenici is chairman of the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee to which the bill has been referred. He also chairman of the Senate Energy and Water Development Appropriations Subcommittee that funds the existing Water 2025 initiative.

For FY2007, the Bureau of Reclamation has requested $14.5 million for Water 2025, a $9.6 million increase over the FY2006 enacted level. The Interior Department has set a May 5 deadline to accept applications for Water 2025 Challenge Grant applications.

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