Thank you, Chairman Bentz, Ranking Member Huffman, and members of the Subcommittee for the opportunity to discuss with you the President’s Fiscal Year (FY) 2024 Budget for the Bureau of Reclamation. I am Camille Calimlim Touton, Commissioner for the Bureau of Reclamation.
The issues we face today are unprecedented as we experience the worst drought in the 120-year history of this organization. This challenges Reclamation’s ability to deliver water and produce hydropower in the way we have in the past. Climate change has made it likely that we will continue to experience the same, or worse, hydrology in the future. Record snowfall and rain across parts of the West – and particularly California – have brought some relief. While we are thankful for the benefits, we must not forget the cyclical nature of western hydrology. Therefore, this is not a time for Reclamation, the States and Tribes to take our foot off the gas. It is an opportunity to get ahead of the planning. Reclamation will continue to manage the drought in real time, focusing on our enduring priorities of People, Partnerships, Investments – and Hydrology in the West.
Reclamation manages water for agriculture, municipal and industrial use, the environment, and provides flood control and recreation for millions of people. Reclamation’s projects and programs serve as the water and power infrastructure backbone of the American West, constituting an important driver of economic growth in hundreds of basins through the Western States. Reclamation’s activities support economic activity valued at $66.6 billion, and support approximately 472,000 jobs. Reclamation delivers 10 trillion gallons of water to millions of people each year and provides water for irrigation of 10 million farmland acres, which yields approximately 25 percent of the Nation’s fruit and nut crops, and 60 percent of the vegetable harvest.
Reclamation’s fundamental mission and programs – modernizing and maintaining infrastructure, conserving natural resources, using science and research to inform decision-making, serving underserved populations, and staying as nimble as possible in response to the requirements of drought and a changing climate – position it as an exemplar for the Biden-Harris Administration’s core tenets. The Bureau of Reclamation’s FY 2024 budget provides the foundation to meet our mission, and to manage, develop, and protect water resources, consistent with applicable State and Federal law, and in a cost-effective and environmentally responsible manner in the interest of the American public. Reclamation remains committed to working with a wide range of stakeholders, including water and power customers, Tribes, State and local officials, and non-governmental organizations, to meet its mission.
Reclamation is requesting a gross total of $1,449,314,000 in Federal discretionary appropriations, which is anticipated to be augmented by over $2.4 billion in other Federal and non-Federal funds for FY 2024. Of the total, $1,301,012,000 is for the Water and Related Resources account, which is Reclamation’s largest account, $66,794,000 is for the Policy and Administration account, and $33,000,000 is for the California Bay Delta account. A total of $48,508,000 is budgeted for the Central Valley Project Restoration Fund.
Activities to Support Tribal Programs & Tribal Water Rights Settlements: Reclamation tackles the challenges of racial equity and underserved communities through investments in Tribal water rights settlements, continuation of the Native American Affairs technical assistance program, rural water projects, and investments in specific projects for underserved communities through programs such as WaterSMART. The Bipartisan Infrastructure Law PL 117-58 (BIL) and Inflation Reduction Act appropriations both invest substantial portions of its funding to underserved populations, and rural and Tribal communities.
The FY 2024 discretionary request also includes $35.5 million for the Native American Affairs program to improve capacity to work with and support Tribes in the resolution of their water rights claims and to develop sustainable water sharing agreements and management activities. This funding will also strengthen Department-wide capabilities to achieve an integrated and systematic approach to Indian water rights negotiations to consider the full range of economic, legal, and technical attributes of proposed settlements. Finally, funding also supports Reclamation efforts for Tribal nations by supporting many activities across the Bureau, including some rural water projects, the Yakima River Basin Water Enhancement Project, the Klamath Project, and the Lahontan Basin project, among others.
Conservation and Climate Resilience: Reclamation’s projects are able to address the Administration’s priorities to address conservation and climate resilience through funding requests for the WaterSMART program, funding to secure water supply to our refuges, and proactive efforts through providing sound climate science, research and development, and clean energy.
The WaterSMART Program serves as the primary contributor to Reclamation’s and the Department of the Interior’s Water Conservation Priority Goal. Since 2010, projects funded under contributing programs, including WaterSMART Grants, Title XVI (Water Recycling and Reuse Program), California Bay-Delta Program, Yakima River Basin Water Enhancement Project, and Desalination construction projects have achieved a total of 1,682,005 acre-feet water savings.
Through WaterSMART, Reclamation works cooperatively with States, Tribes, and local entities as they plan for and implement actions to address current and future water shortages, including drought; degraded water quality; increased demands for water and energy from growing populations; environmental water requirements; and the potential for decreased water supply availability due to climate change, drought, population growth, and increased water requirements for environmental purposes. This includes cost-shared grants for water management improvement projects; water reclamation and reuse projects; watershed resilience projects; the Basin Study Program; and drought planning and implementation actions to proactively address water shortages. The FY 2024 request includes $62.9 million for the WaterSMART Program.
Climate Science: Reclamation’s FY 2024 budget for Research and Development (R&D) programs includes $22.5 million for the Science and Technology Program, and $7.0 million for Desalination and Water Purification Research—both of which focus on Reclamation’s mission of water and power deliveries. Climate change adaptation is a focus of Reclamation’s R&D programs, which invests in the production of climate change science, information and tools that benefit adaptation, and by yielding climate-resilient solutions to benefit management of water infrastructure, hydropower, environmental compliance, and water management.
The Desalination and Water Purification Research program addresses drought and water scarcity impacts caused by climate change by investing in desalination and water treatment technology development and demonstrations for the purpose of more effectively converting unusable waters to useable water supplies. The Science and Technology program invests in innovation to address the full range of technical issues confronting Reclamation water and hydropower managers and includes the Snow Water Supply Forecasting Program that aims to improve water supply forecasts through enhanced snow monitoring and water management to address the impacts of drought and a changing climate.
Modernizing and Maintaining Infrastructure: Reclamation’s water and power projects throughout the western United States provide water supplies for agricultural, municipal, and industrial purposes. Reclamation’s projects also provide energy produced by hydropower facilities and maintain ecosystems that support fish and wildlife, hunting, fishing, and other recreation, as well as rural economies.
Dam Safety: Reclamation manages 489 dams throughout the 17 Western States. Reclamation’s Dam Safety Program has identified 361 high and significant hazard dams at 241 facilities, which form the core of the program. Through constant monitoring and assessment, Reclamation strives to achieve the best use of its limited resources to ensure dam safety and maintain our ability to store and divert water and to generate hydropower.
The Dam Safety Program helps ensure the safety and reliability of Reclamation dams to protect the downstream public. Approximately 50 percent of Reclamation’s dams were built between 1900 and 1950, and approximately 90 percent of the dams were built before adoption of currently used, state-of-the-art design and construction practices. Reclamation continuously evaluates dams and monitors performance to ensure that risks do not exceed the Federal Guidelines for Dam Safety Risk Management and the Public Protection Guidelines. The Dam Safety Program represents a major funding need over the next 10 years, driven largely by necessary repairs at B.F. Sisk Dam in California. The B.F. Sisk Dam is a key component of the Central Valley Project, providing 2 million acre-feet of water storage south of the California Sacramento-San Joaquin River Delta. Reclamation is modifying the dam to reduce the risk of potential failure resulting from potential overtopping in response to a seismic event, using the most current science and technology to develop an adaptive and resilient infrastructure. In addition to B.F. Sisk, Reclamation has identified 12 projects with anticipated modification needs through 2030, as well as 5 additional projects that will be assessed for potential risk reduction efforts prior to 2025.
The proposed budget also requests $105.3 million for specific Extraordinary Maintenance (XM) activities across Reclamation in FY 2024. This request is central to mission objectives of operating and maintaining projects to ensure delivery of water and power benefits. Reclamation’s XM request relies on condition assessments, condition/performance metrics, technological research and deployment, and strategic collaboration to better inform and improve the management of its assets and deal with its infrastructure maintenance challenges. Reclamation was also appropriated $3.2 billion in the BIL, and the allocation plan for FY 2024 funding has been provided to Congress as mandated.
Renewable Energy: Reclamation owns 78 hydroelectric power plants. Reclamation operates 53 of those plants to generate approximately 15 percent of the hydroelectric power produced in the United States. Each year on average, Reclamation generates about 40 million megawatt hours of electricity and collects over $1.0 billion in gross power revenues for the Federal Government.
Reclamation’s FY 2024 budget request includes $3.5 million to increase Reclamation hydropower capabilities and value, contributing to Administration clean energy and climate change initiatives and enhancing water conservation and climate resilience within the power program.
Section 70101 of the BIL established the Indian Water Rights Settlement Completion Fund (Completion Fund), making $2.5 billion available to the Secretary of the Interior to satisfy Tribal settlement obligations as authorized by Congress prior to enactment of the BIL. In FY 2022 and FY 2023, the Department allocated $2.26 billion of those funds, $608.5 million of which supported Reclamation’s Tribal settlement implementation actions. Additional funding from the Completion Fund will be allocated in FY 2024. In addition to the Completion Fund, FY 2024 represents the fifth year of Reclamation Water Settlements Fund (RWSF) allocations, which provide $120 million in annual mandatory authority for Reclamation Indian water rights settlements. Funding made available by previous mandatory authorities, such as that authorized in the Claims Resolution Act, remain available for settlement implementation, while the ongoing operations and maintenance requirements of the Arizona Water Settlement Act are expected to continue to be supported within the Lower Colorado River Basin Development Fund.
The investments described in Reclamation’s FY 2024 budget, in combination with BIL and the Inflation Reduction Act implementation and prior year efforts will ensure that Reclamation can continue to provide reliable water and power to the American West. Water management, improving and modernizing infrastructure, using sound science to support critical decision-making, finding opportunities to expand capacity, reducing conflict, and meeting environmental responsibilities are all addressed in this FY 2024 budget request. Reclamation continues to look at ways to plan more efficiently for future challenges faced in water resources management and to improve the way it does business.
Thank you for the opportunity to summarize the President’s FY 2024 Budget Request for the Bureau of Reclamation.
1/ U.S. Department of the Interior Economic Contributions Report – Fiscal Year 2019.