MIL-OSI USA: Stansbury, Heinrich, Luján, Owens, Lee, Lawmakers Introduce Landmark Bipartisan Water Security and Drought Package

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Source: United States House of Representatives – Representative Melanie Stansbury (N.M.-01)

Rep. Stansbury announces comprehensive bipartisan bills, including the Water Data Act and the Rio Grande Water Security Act, to address water security across the West and the United States

WASHINGTON—As the worst drought in 1,200 years grips communities across the West and wildfires continue to burn across the state of New Mexico, U.S. Representative Melanie Stansbury (N.M.-01) announced a bipartisan, bicameral legislative package to address drought and water security across the United States.  

Rep. Stansbury is introducing the Water Data Act and Rio Grande Water Security Act in the House of Representatives. Combined in Senate companion legislation (S.4236) led by U.S. Senators Martin Heinrich (N.M.) and Ben Ray Luján (N.M.), the legislation is scheduled to be heard in an upcoming legislative hearing before the Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources.  

“Water is life and the lifeblood of our communities,” said Rep. Stansbury. “As we face historic drought and wildfires, we must address the immediate needs of our communities while transforming water management across the West. These bills will provide the essential resources and coordination we need to tackle our biggest water challenges, in partnership with our farmers and ranchers, acequia mayordomos, and communities who live these realities every day. I am proud to introduce this bipartisan legislation with wide support from across the United States and call on Congress to take urgent action to address our drought and water challenges now—so that our communities have the tools they need.” 

Rep. Stansbury is introducing the first-of-its kind bipartisan, bicameral Water Data Act (H.R. 7792) in the House of Representatives with Reps. Burgess Owens (Utah-04), Susie Lee (Nev.-03), and Yvette Herrell (N.M.-02) and 10 additional cosponsors. The Water Data Act is designed to transform and modernize water management across the United States by putting the power of data and science into the hands of communities, farmers, and water managers. The Water Data Act will create a national framework to unleash the power of water data, address longstanding technical challenges in water data and science, create a national Water Data Council, and establish a new grant program to invest in innovation and new technologies to support water management. 

Rep. Stansbury is also introducing the Rio Grande Water Security Act (H.R. 7793) with Reps. Teresa Leger Fernández (N.M.-03), Rep. Joe Neguse (Colo.-02), and Rep. Ed Perlmutter (Colo.-07). This legislation will bring game-changing support to the communities of the Rio Grande River Basin, one of the West’s most iconic rivers. For the first time in history, the Rio Grande Water Security Act will create the resources needed to develop a plan to address the water security needs of the region. The bill will also reauthorize a vital lifeline to address the irrigation infrastructure needs of the Pueblo nations who have used these waters for countless generations. 

A fact sheet on the Water Data Act is here and the full bill text is here. A fact sheet on the Rio Grande Water Security Act is here and the full bill text is here 

The Water Data Act will: 

  • Establish a national water data framework for sharing, integrating, and utilizing water data and supporting the development of innovative water data technologies and tools.  
  • Develop common standards for water data to unlock the power of existing and future data for use in countless tools and technologies to empower water users and managers. 
  • Organize and direct federal agencies that generate and use water data to work together.  
  • Support consultation, coordination, and partnerships with stakeholders by permanently authorizing the Advisory Committee on Water Information. 
  • Establish a new grant program under the Department of the Interior to invest in improving water data in partnership with state, local, and other organizations.
  • Invest in next-generation water data technologies and tools to transform water management.  

The Rio Grande Water Security Act will: 

  • Bring vital coordination and resources to address water security needs across the Rio Grande. 
  • Develop an integrated water resources management plan for the Rio Grande Basin using the best available science, data, and local knowledge to improve water conservation, address community water needs, and restore this iconic river and its tributaries. 
  • Convene a Rio Grande Basin Working Group to provide recommendations to improve infrastructure, data, and monitoring, increase water conservation, and improve collaboration across the Basin for the next three decades. 
  • Reauthorize a critical program to invest in Pueblo irrigation infrastructure.

Quotes from Co-Leads of the Water Data Act: 

“In the face of threats from the climate crisis, it is critical that we unite our efforts to protect our most precious resource – our water,” said Sen. Heinrich. “We’ve made historic progress on funding water infrastructure projects through the Infrastructure Law. Now, I’m proud to lead on the Water Data Act in the Senate. This legislation is a great way for federal, state, Tribal, and local agencies to come together on the same page with the data that helps us protect water resources in New Mexico and across the Southwest.” 

“While New Mexico and our country continue to combat challenges of the 21st century, it’s critical to utilize the most relevant information available to bolster water management. As the federal government plays an important role in collecting and providing data, this information must be easily accessible to help communities facing drought, flooding, and other pressing water management needs,” said Sen. Luján. “That’s why I’m proud to stand with my New Mexico Democratic colleagues to introduce this legislation that will build on the success we’ve seen in New Mexico, to strengthen coordination between government agencies, and improve water management throughout the country.” 

 

“Across the west, farmers, ranchers, and industries are experiencing the worst drought in over 1,200 years, making a collaborative approach critical for water management,” said Rep. Owens. “The Water Data Act replaces out-of-date, hard-to-use information with real-time, accurate data that will help communities in their around-the-clock efforts to deliver and conserve water. On behalf of Utahns in the Fourth District and Americans across the west, I am proud to support this important bill to increase efficiency, conservation, and water usage.” 

“We are facing the worst drought in more than twelve centuries,” said Rep. Susie Lee. “The reality is you can’t manage what you can’t measure – our federal agencies must work together to solve our water crisis and that means we must share water information and data across agencies. I’m proud to introduce this common-sense, bipartisan bill to help us manage our water resources more efficiently.” 

“Ensuring that federal agencies adopt coordinated standards for reporting water data will enable states, tribes, and local communities to more easily access this information, which is vital during the severe drought conditions in New Mexico is currently experiencing,” said Rep. Yvette Herrell. “This same collaboration will be necessary across the West as major water sources, such as the Rio Grande, are strained due to dry conditions. Government accountability and transparency should not be a partisan issue and I am pleased to be cosponsor of the bi-partisan Water Data Act.”     

 “Our precious waters are part of New Mexico and who we are. As we develop solutions to preserve these invaluable resources, it is important that our water managers and users have the best facts and data to make decisions. This is more important than ever as we continue to face unprecedented water shortages and droughts driven by climate change. Data is only as good as our ability to use it – the Water Data Act will ensure that we’re making information on our water resources accessible, coordinated, and understandable so it can serve nuestragente.” said Rep. Leger Fernández. 

“Our country has a water crisis that requires urgent action to save lives. Unaffordable bills, lead service lines, and underregulated pollutants are just some of the problems plaguing our communities. I’m proud to cosponsor Congresswoman Stansbury’s Water Data Act because we need to move quickly to quantify and understand the scale of our water issues. Water is a human right, and we have a duty to ensure everyone in this country has access to clean, affordable water. The Water Data Act will bring together diverse stakeholders and policymakers to turn information into action,” said Rep. Rashida Tlaib (Mich.-13).

Water is our most precious resource and the lifeblood of the Southwest,” said Rep. Tom O’Halleran (Ariz.-01), who represents a 56,000-square-mile district in rural Arizona. “However, the policies that govern its use and availability, and the best practices we’ve found, are too often difficult to understand and access. By introducing this commonsense bill, we’re aiming to better collect water data in coordination with state, tribal, and local stakeholders and build out plans that will help to transform water management to uplift our rural and tribal communities, farmers, ranchers, and ag producers. 

“I’m proud to cosponsor the much-needed Water Data Act which will improve water management for government and other users by providing data that is publicly available, updated in real time, and easy to access at all levels,” said Rep. Dina Titus (Nev.-03).

“As Arizona and the West face continued and worsening drought, it’s important that we have the best possible data to determine the best solutions for alleviating it. This bill is a step in the right direction towards having the collaborative and cutting-edge water data our state and region desperately need,” said Rep. Ruben Gallego (Ariz.-07).  

“As Colorado and the West face the worst drought in over a thousand years, it is imperative that we invest in water resiliency measures that drive our region towards a livable and sustainable future. I am proud to join my colleagues in cosponsoring these critical bills to improve water conservation efforts, increase cooperation between authorities and communities, and make our water management practices more transparent and effective,” said Rep. Joe Neguse (Colo.-02). 

“Water quality is key to helping us make informed environmental, economic, and public health decisions. That’s why it’s time to create a centralized location for collecting water data in real-time,” said Rep. Blunt Rochester (Del.). “For states that are prone to flooding, struggling with water contamination, or need healthy groundwater for farming, like my home state of Delaware, access to comprehensive water data would be beneficial to improving the overall quality of life. I’m proud to introduce the Water Data Act alongside Rep. Stansbury that would address these issues so we can continue to improve water management in communities across the country.” 

 

“I’m pleased to be an original cosponsor of the Water Data Act. This vital bill will improve water management in Indiana’s 7thCongressional District and around the country. It will ensure that communities, farmers, and governments can access accurate water data to make informed decisions about drought, water quality issues, or flooding. As the climate crisis worsens, legislation like this will help provide us with the tools we need to safeguard important resources and better respond to this global challenge,” said Rep. André Carson (Ind.-07). 

“I am proud to be an original co-sponsor of the Water Data Act led by Rep. Melanie A. Stansbury.” said Congresswoman Sheila Cherfilus-McCormick (Fla.-20), “The 20th Congressional District is a diverse region broadly ranging from urban to rural areas. This legislation will help provide us with comprehensive data points to improve our overall water management and ensure sustainable stewardship for the next generation.”

Quotes from Co-Leads of the Rio Grande Water Security Act: 

“The Rio Grande is the lifeblood of New Mexico. We urgently need to address the disappearance of snowpack and long-term aridification that are already contributing to historic water shortages and other devastating climate impacts on the river,” said Sen. Heinrich. “That’s why I’m proud to lead on both of these pieces of legislation to collect important data and create science-based resilience and coordination plans to protect the health and vitality of this river that so many New Mexicans depend upon.” 

“As our environment continues to face threats due to climate change, our government must be prepared to protect and preserve vital resources like the Rio Grande,” said Sen. Luján. “I’m joining my New Mexico colleagues to introduce this legislation to bring together federal officials and local stakeholders to develop the best tools and resources to ensure the long-term success of the Rio Grande and the communities that rely on it. I’m pleased this legislative package also includes a much-needed reauthorization to continue studying irrigation infrastructure on Tribal and Pueblo lands.” 

“I am proud to cosponsor the Rio Grande Water Security Act. The long-term health and viability of the Rio Grande is not a partisan issue,” said Rep. Herrell. “Unless we take swift action, drought will continue to have negative effects on our communities, causing losses in crop yields and forcing ranchers to sell off cattle herds due to lack of water. Jobs could dry up along with the water that supports them. Every option should be on the table and collaborating in a constructive way with our federal partners and other states in the Rio Grande Basin will be key to our long-term success. I look forward to working with my colleagues in the New Mexico delegation to move these proposals forward.” 

“From the devastating wildfires to the dwindling flows in acequias, drought continues to hurt our lands and nuestragente. We need effective water resource management to support New Mexico’s rural communities, farmers, ranchers, businesses, and ecosystems. I’m excited to cosponsor the Rio Grande Water Security Act so that we can work collaboratively to provide our communities with the necessary tools and infrastructure to access and preserve our beautiful rio,” said Rep. Leger Fernández. 

The Rio Grande Water Security Act is additionally co-led in the House of Representatives by Reps. Joe Neguse (Colo.-02), and Ed Perlmutter (Colo.-07) 

The Rio Grande Water Security Act enjoys support from a variety of water users and managers across the Basin, including thePueblo of Sandia, the Middle Rio Grande Conservancy District, the New Mexico Farm and Livestock Bureau, Amigos Bravos, and Friends of Bosque del Apache.  

To view letters of support for this legislation, click here. 

The Water Data Act is supported by a diverse coalition of water experts and organizations, farmers, and communities across the United States, including New Mexico Farm & Livestock Bureau, National Groundwater Association, The Water Foundation, the Internet of Water Initiative, the New Mexico Bureau of Geology and Mineral Resources, We the People of Detroit, the Interstate Council on Water Policy, and Family Farm Alliance.  

To view letters of support for this legislation, click here. 

As the nation continues to face expanding drought and emerging contaminants such as PFAS and PFOA, the role of water data is playing a larger role in how we combat these challenges,” said Brian Snelten, PG, president of the National Ground Water Association. “The Water Data Act will give groundwater scientists and contractors the information they need to take on today’s water challenges and keep providing water to families and farms across the country. We would like to thank Congresswoman Stansbury for introducing the Water Data Act and we look forward to helping pass this bill.” 

“The Water Foundation applauds Congresswoman Stansbury for her leadership and dedication to the sustainable and equitable use of water in the Rio Grande basin and throughout the nation. Since her time in the state legislature, Congresswoman Stansbury has recognized that clean water and healthy rivers are vital to the people of New Mexico and she has used her expertise to protect and invest in those resources. The Rio Grande Water Security Act will bring together the expertise and resources of federal agencies, the three basin states, numerous tribal governments, and a host of different stakeholders, to develop and implement a plan to protect the significant environmental, cultural, and economic values of that storied river. With drought and fire bearing down on the forests, farms, and watersheds of the Rio Grande, Congresswoman Stansbury’s bill will bring together the people of the basin, around a plan that guides investments and management for years to come. Congresswoman Stansbury’s Water Data Act is built on the premise that you cannot manage what you don’t measure. Her bill will better coordinate the dozens of agencies and millions of dollars that the federal government invests each year to protect and restore the nation’s sources and supplies of clean water for people and nature.” –The Water Foundation.  

“Water data in the U.S. is often inaccessible or not formatted in a way that is easy to use, leaving stakeholders without the information they need to make critical decisions on water management, and this increases risks to public health, the environment, and our economy,” said Peter Colohan, Director of the Internet of Water initiative at the Lincoln Institute of Land Policy’s Center for Geospatial Solutions. “A standardized framework for water data sharing—including resources to expedite the participation of water management entities at the federal, state, and local levels—is crucial to solving this problem. I applaud Rep. Stansbury for her dedication and attention to this important issue for over a decade.” 

“As we face a future of climate variability and extremes, we must keep water at the center of all of our actions, decisions, and planning. This requiresthat we centralize and make accessible data from all potential sources. New Mexico faces some of the most extreme water scarcity issuesinthe nation, and we aremaking significant progress to address drought and water supply issues by modernizing our water data management and making this data openly accessible in real time. Thanks to Representative Stansbury’s leadership at the state and now federal Water Data Act, we, as a nation, can become fully data-informed in our water management and planning decisions,” said Stacy Timmons, Associate Director of Hydrogeology, Leading implementation of NM Water Data Act, NM Bureau of Geology and Mineral Resources.

“We the People of Detroit commends Representative Stansbury on bringing legislation to enact the Water Data Act to the forefront. In a city like Detroit, where our local utility has historically shut off water to tens of thousands of residents, we must continue to hold them accountable. Water data transparency, quality, and accessibility are paramount as we advocate for water justice and sustained water affordability,” said Monica Lewis-Patrick, President and CEO of We the People of Detroit. 

“The Water Collaborative of Greater New Orleans proudly supports Representative Stansbury’s legislation for a federal Water Data and Security Act to hold all states and government agencies accountable for water data collection and public transparency. Our water data should be as transparent as the clean water all humans are entitled to so that people can make informed decisions that support the health of our communities and the environment.”—The Water Collaborative of Greater New Orleans.

“As water related disasters such as drought, floods and hurricanes continue to become more erratic and severe, it’s imperative that we all coordinate our management of water data and information. We support the Water Data Act and encourage its swift passage,” said Sue Lowry, Executive Director of the Interstate Council on Water Policy. 

“The Water Data Act would direct federal agencies to standardize water data collection and provide funding to build innovative tools for water management. The approach taken in this bill is consistent with our long-held philosophy that federal agencies should coordinate closely on Western water management matters,” said Dan Keppen, Executive Director of Family Farm Alliance. 

“The Center for Water Security and Cooperation commends Representative Stansbury for helping to bring water challenges and threats out of the shadows,” said Alexandra Campbell-Ferrari, co-founder and executive director of the Center for Water Security and Cooperation. “Without data, information, and transparency, communities cannot understand what they are up against and how to protect themselves. Water is the beating heart of every community. We must treat it as such.” 

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