Barrasso: We Need Short & Long Term Solutions that Provide Westerners the Water They Need

June 14, 2022

Click here to watch Ranking Member Barrasso’s remarks.  

WASHINGTON, D.C. — Today, U.S. Senator John Barrasso (R-WY), ranking member of the Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources (ENR), delivered remarks at a full committee hearing to examine short and long term solutions to extreme drought in the western United States.

The hearing featured testimony from the Honorable Camille C. Touton, commissioner of the Bureau of Reclamation at the U.S. Department of the Interior; Mr. John J. Entsminger, general manager of Southern Nevada Water Authority; Dr. Maurice Hall, vice president of Climate Resilient Water Systems at the Environmental Defense Fund; Mr. Patrick O’Toole, president of the Family Farm Alliance; and Mr. Charlie Stern, specialist in Natural Resources Policy at the Congressional Research Service.

For more information on witness testimony click here. 

Senator Barrasso’s remarks: 

“Thanks so much, Mr. Chairman, for holding this important hearing today on the devastating drought that we’ve living through in the West. 

“First, I want to welcome Pat O’Toole of Savery, Wyoming to be at the committee today as a member of our panel. 

“Mr. O’Toole, thanks so much for agreeing to testify today. 

“You’ve been here in the past to testify.

“You always provide valuable insight, and I’m glad you’re here to provide that insight today on this important topic. 

“Mr. Chairman, I’m going to give a more extensive introduction of Pat, a former member of the Wyoming Legislature, when we get to that point in terms of the witness testimony. 

“Extreme drought is a serious concern to all westerners, especially to small, rural farming and ranching communities in Wyoming. 

“Drought can create conditions for catastrophic wildfires that threaten homes and communities. 

“According to the National Interagency Fire Center, over 27,000 wildfires have already burned close to 2 million acres this year all across country. 

“Drought also reduces recreational and tourism opportunities. 

“It reduces related jobs around reservoirs, on public lands. 

“As of now, according to National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, 36 National Parks, over 400 ski resorts, and over fifteen hundred reservoirs are experiencing moderate to exceptional drought. 

“Drought impacts energy production and availability. 

“Low water levels threaten the operation of hydro-dams which provide a significant amount of carbon-free electricity to western communities – you mentioned that in your opening statement, Mr. Chairman. 

“Lack of water availability also threatens hydraulic fracturing. 

“This a process which produces abundant supplies of clean natural gas. 

“Drought denies water to vital grazing lands and alfalfa fields necessary for feeding and raising cattle. 

“This can result in significant economic impacts for communities that depend on agriculture and ranching to create jobs.

“When the farms and ranches stop producing because of lack of water, it does not just put farmers and ranchers out of work. 

“It increases the cost of food. 

“This hits families in the West and across the country who can afford it the least. 

“American families are dealing with skyrocketing inflation and record-breaking gas prices at the pump – the highest in history today. 

“They cannot afford a grocery drought tax on top of all of that, which is going to clearly bust household budgets even further. 

“The problems and impacts of drought are clear. 

“What westerners need are solutions. 

“This means we need solutions to help Upper Basin states like Wyoming be in compliance with their obligations to the other Colorado River Basin states. 

“These solutions include providing flexibility in the operation of Bureau of Reclamation facilities to better manage available water resources. 

“We also need to develop better data to understand how much water our state, and other states, are using and account for that use. 

“Improved data is going to help us understand what the drought is doing to our states and to our water users across all sectors. 

“Better forecasting data will also identify drought-related problems before they arise.

“We also need to invest in additional water storage opportunities to more effectively use the water we have. 

“Building more water storage will give Wyoming and other states the water they need. 

“It will provide system resiliency, and will help maintain stream flows to benefit fish and wildlife. 

“The stakes could not be higher. 

“We need short and long term solutions that provide westerners the water they need. 

“Any policies that do not ensure the health, safety and economic well-being of American families first, are not policies worth pursuing. 

“More water storage, improved federal flexibility, better data, and improved forecasting can help accomplish these goals. 

“Upper and Lower Basin states benefit from working together to address the drought and accomplish these goals. 

“Again, thank you Mr. Chairman, and I look forward to hearing from the witnesses.”