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Biden-Harris Administration Delivers $60 Million from Investing in America Agenda for Drought Resilience in the Rio Grande Basin

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For Release: May 10, 2024
The Rio Grande looking downstream from Caballo Dam. The Rio Grande looking downstream from Caballo Dam.

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — Secretary of the Interior Deb Haaland today announced a $60 million investment from President Biden’s Investing in America agenda for water conservation and drought resilience in the Rio Grande Basin. These resources will ensure greater climate resiliency and water security for communities below Elephant Butte Reservoir and into West Texas. Secretary Haaland made the announcement in Albuquerque following a briefing on the Rio Grande Project with state and local officials, irrigators, and other partners.  

Through cooperative agreements with the New Mexico Interstate Stream Commission and the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation, the Bureau of Reclamation will work with the Elephant Butte Irrigation District and El Paso County Water Improvement District #1, the International Boundary and Water Commission, and local stakeholders to develop supplemental water projects or programs to benefit Reclamation’s Rio Grande Project and endangered species in the basin. The water savings from the proposed projects are anticipated to be in the tens of thousands of acre-feet per year.  

“The Biden-Harris administration is committed to making communities more resilient to the impacts of climate change, including the Rio Grande basin and the people, wildlife and economies that rely on it,” said Secretary Deb Haaland. “We continue to make smart investments through President Biden’s Investing in America agenda to safeguard water resources, invest in innovative water conservation strategies and increase overall water efficiency throughout the West.” 

Stretching over 1,200 miles, the Rio Grande provides water supplies for agricultural food production as well as renewable drinking water to fast-growing cities and municipalities throughout New Mexico and Texas. The river supports eight federally recognized Tribes, habitat for migrating birds and other species, and a robust and highly profitable tourism and outdoor recreation industry. Despite improved hydrology in recent months, a historic 23-year drought has led to record low water levels throughout the basin. The Biden-Harris administration continues to deliver historic resources to address ongoing drought and strengthen water security across the region now and into the future. 

Today’s announcement comes from the Inflation Reduction Act, which includes $500 million for water management and conservation efforts in areas outside the Colorado River Basin experiencing similar levels of long-term drought. Funding for other basins will be announced through the summer and fall. The Biden-Harris administration has already invested almost $59 million in the Rio Grande Basin, including more than $30 million for aging infrastructure repairs to improve water supplies and water delivery systems in the Rio Grande and Middle Rio Grande Projects through Bipartisan Infrastructure Law funding. 

“The Rio Grande, like many rivers in the West, has struggled with the impacts of severe drought for decades,” said Reclamation Commissioner Camille Calimlim Touton. “This funding from President Biden’s Investing in America agenda gives Reclamation and our partners the ability to explore options for stormwater capture and other activities to ease the impacts of climate change.”

On the Rio Grande, this funding will help efforts to increase storage at existing sediment dams and new off-channel storage to capture stormwater. This water will be used to recharge the aquifer, reduce irrigation demands and improve and create riparian wildlife habitat for threatened and endangered species like the Yellow-Billed Cuckoo and Southwest Willow Flycatcher. Other projects will improve irrigation infrastructure efficiency and fund forbearance and fallowing programs. 

Prolonged drought within the project area and heavy regional reliance on groundwater pumping has caused a reduction in surface water supply, resulting in a decrease in project efficiency and loss of wildlife habitat. 

Implementation of these programs and projects will benefit Rio Grande Project farmers, residents within the counties of Doña Ana and Sierra in New Mexico, and El Paso County in Texas, as well as the Republic of Mexico. These communities are identified as socioeconomically disadvantaged and vulnerable to climate change based on the Climate and Economic Justice Screening Tool.  

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