Manchin Convenes Robust Discussion On Western Drought Crisis, Calls For Actionable Drought-Proof Water Solutions

Manchin: ‘We must better manage and conserve the limited water resources that are the lifeblood of so many economies and communities’

June 14, 2022

To watch a video of Senator Manchin’s opening remarks, please click here.

To watch a video of Senator Manchin’s questioning, please click here.

Washington, DC – Today, the U.S. Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee held a hearing to examine short-term and long-term solutions to extreme drought in the western United States. U.S. Senator Joe Manchin (D-WV), Chairman of the Committee, underscored the need for cooperatively developed, all-of-the-above water solutions that incorporate both water supply and water demand approaches to address the ongoing western drought crisis.

“A long-term, coordinated drought effort is going to require flexible water management strategies and meaningful investment at the state and Federal level. The bottom line is this: water is the most essential resource to the health of our people, our economy and our environment. But prolonged drought is becoming a frightening new norm. It’s going to take effort and collaboration from all parties involved to commit to implementing sustainable drought solutions. Recognizing this reality is critical,” said Chairman Manchin.

During the hearing, Chairman Manchin questioned the witnesses about what they believed the Federal government could do to support effective drought management solutions.

“What role should Congress and the Federal government have in western drought and water management going forward?” Chairman Manchin asked.

“I think Congress needs to make massive investments in agricultural efficiencies. I agree with Mr. O’Toole that we need to prioritize food security, but we can’t balance the structural deficit by evacuating the cities. So, we’re going to need to make our ability to grow the same amount of food with less water a priority,” said Mr. John J. Entsminger, General Manager, Southern Nevada Water Authority.

“I think more broadly the support for giving the Bureau of Reclamation the broad flexibility to work with states on new approaches like groundwater management and groundwater storage,” said Dr. Maurice Hall, Vice President of Climate Resilient Water Systems, Environmental Defense Fund.

“I would say that there is more support among observers for activities that can be done from the ground up and stakeholder-driven things that may vary from one basin to the next than there is for top-down, more command-and-control types of Federal activity,” said Mr. Charlie Stern, Specialist in Natural Resources Policy, Congressional Research Service.

“I testified in front of the World Bank last year as part of the climate meetings I went to and the biggest word that they appreciated was scale… We need to move to scale,” said Mr. Patrick O'Toole, President, Family Farm Alliance.

Finally, Chairman Manchin highlighted the historic level of investments in western water infrastructure and climate resilience provided by the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act, and asked Bureau of Reclamation Commissioner Camille Touton what steps her agency is taking to ensure efficient delivery of these funds to address the drought crisis.

The hearing featured witnesses from the Bureau of Reclamation, Congressional Research Service, Environmental Defense Fund, Family Farm Alliance and Southern Nevada Water Authority. To read their testimony, click here.

To watch the hearing in full, please click here.