Democratic News

May 20 2003

Bingaman Water Bill To Aid Arid West

Bingaman Bill Tasks Bureau of Reclamation With Identifying Water Projects in Small Towns, Rural Areas That Could Benefit from Federal Funds

Sen. Jeff Bingaman (D-NM) today introduced legislation that directs the Bureau of Reclamation to explore opportunities where the federal government can help ensure reliable supplies of water for small towns and rural communities. Sen. Tom Daschle, Sen. Byron Dorgan and Sen. Max Baucus co-sponsored the bill. Bingaman’s legislation is in response to the Bush administration’s 80 percent cuts in federal funding for regional water projects. The bill seeks to assure an active federal program that will allow the Bureau of Reclamation to partner with states and local entities to meet the water needs of rural communities. “This bill addresses a critical issue facing many small towns and rural areas, particularly in the arid West: access to adequate water. A reliable water supply is the foundation for the economic activity that provides for the present and future needs of our communities. Addressing this need, however, presents a challenge that most communities simply cannot meet on their own,” Bingaman said. Specifically, Bingaman’s bill authorizes the Secretary of the Interior to undertake a program within Bureau of Reclamation to identify regional, rural water supply systems that could benefit from federal funding. Regional, rural water supply systems are defined as systems that serve multiple communities whose populations are less than 40,000 (though the Interior Secretary has the discretion to include larger communities). The measure also requires the Department of the Interior to consult with the Department of Agriculture, the Environmental Protection Agency and the Indian Health Service and report to Congress on the elements of a Bureau of Reclamation rural water program that will ensure effective coordination of different funding streams within the various agencies. It directs the Interior Secretary to conduct feasibility studies of regional, rural water supply systems, and it authorizes sufficient funding to support the program. “Having helped to reclaim the West during the 20th Century, the Bureau of Reclamation should help sustain it in the 21st Century,” Bingaman said. “It is my hope that we can get strong support for this legislation in both the House and the Senate, so that this bill can get to the President’s desk quickly.” # # #