Drought conditions and climate crisis call for more efficient water infrastructure

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WASHINGTON – Experts in government, agriculture, water management and the environment highlighted the danger of climate change-fueled droughts in the West on Wednesday at a U.S. Senate hearing , including in the Colorado River Basin.

During a hearing before a panel of the Energy and Natural Resources Committee, witnesses said long-term solutions and investment in water infrastructure are needed to combat the effects of climate change.

Tanya Trujillo, Deputy Secretary for Water and Science at the Interior Ministry, said the $ 8.4 billion earmarked for the West in an infrastructure bill passed by the Senate would replace water infrastructure, which will prevent water from escaping. The bill also invests in technology that can capture water, she said.

The passage of this bill in the House remains tied to Democrats in Congress reaching agreement on the largest social infrastructure package proposed by the Biden administration.

“We will experience inevitable reductions in water supply to farms and hydropower production, degradation of ecosystems and urban areas will have to conserve water,” Trujillo said.

Tom Buschatzke, director of the Arizona Department of Water Resources, said Arizona has been in a state of drought emergency since 1999.

“The past two decades of continuing drought in the western United States, and particularly in the Colorado River Basin, are testing the seven Colorado River Basin states in Arizona, California, Colorado, Nevada, New -Mexico, Utah and Wyoming, as well as the Republic of Mexico, to meet the needs of the 40 million people and millions of hectares of farmland that depend on the river, ”he said in his opening statement.

Arizona Democratic Senator Mark Kelly had requested a Senate hearing on drought conditions along the Colorado River after water level projections for Lake Mead and Lake Powell were released by the Bureau of Reclamation by the United States.

In August, BuRec officially declared the first-ever water shortage in the Colorado River Basin, triggering mandatory water cuts for Nevada next year.

Jennifer Pitt, director of the Colorado River program at the National Audubon Society, told the subcommittee that 30 tribes depend on the river.

“Climate change has burst through the entryways to the Colorado Basin,” Pitt said.

One month of August report by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change found that for every 0.9 degree Fahrenheit the atmosphere warms, some areas will experience increased droughts, which can adversely affect agricultural production and the ecosystem .

Droughts, exacerbated by climate change, will likely be more frequent by 2050, according to at Yale Climate Connections, an initiative of the Yale Center for Environmental Communication.

In late September, the National Integrated Drought Information System, part of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, determined that over 40 percent of the United States, and nearly 48 percent of the lower states, are in drought.

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