Bennet: Western water crisis deserves action like East, Gulf coast disasters |

Bennet: Western water crisis deserves action like East, Gulf coast disasters

Sen. Michael Bennet, D-Colo., chairman of the Senate Agriculture Subcommittee on Conservation, Climate, Forestry, and Natural Resources, said today, June 8, that the water crisis in the western states deserves the same level of government aid that the East Coast and Gulf Coast states have gotten in response to hurricanes and other natural disasters.

“When hurricanes and other natural disasters strike the East Coast, or the Gulf states, Washington springs into action to protect those communities,” Bennet said at a hearing. “That’s what a federal government is supposed to do – to bring the full power and resources of the American people together to help our fellow citizens.

“But we haven’t seen anything like that kind of response to the Western water crisis, even though its consequences are far more wide-reaching and sustained than any one natural disaster.

“And that’s just water. I haven’t even mentioned how climate change is incinerating our forests and blanketing our communities in smoke from wildfires.”

As he convened the hearing, Bennet said, “Our purpose this morning is simple: to sound the alarm about the water crisis in the American West.”

Noting that the hearing is the subcommittee’s first hearing since 2013, and the first since the subcommittee was expanded in 2021 to focus on climate, Bennett added, “The West hasn’t been this dry in 1,200 years. If we don’t get our act together in Washington, it’s going to not only put Western agriculture at risk, but the American West as we know it.”

The Colorado River Basin, which provides drinking water for 40 million people across seven states and 30 tribes, irrigates five million acres of agricultural land and underpins the West’s $26 billion outdoor recreation and tourism economy, “is running out of water,” Bennet said.

The two largest reservoirs in the basin, Lake Powell and Lake Mead, are at the lowest levels since they were filled over 50 years ago, he added.

“As drought and wildfires persist, we must come together to create common-sense solutions with input from scientists, community members, farmers, and ranchers who intimately understand the challenges at hand. It is my hope that this hearing will serve as a turning point on the long path to drought resiliency,” said Sen. Roger Marshall, R-Kan., subcommittee ranking member.

A series of witnesses testified about the problems in the western states.


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