The recent passage of the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act (H.R. 3684) brings hope for birds, ecosystems, and communities in the arid West. The Act is a cornerstone of the Biden-Harris Administration, addressing long-awaited infrastructure needs with historic amounts of funding for transportation, electricity, and broadband internet projects. Audubon widely supported this bill, especially funding that will address the ongoing climate crisis, including for clean energy projects, climate resiliency upgrades, transit, and electric vehicles. But more funding, including many of the proposals in the current reconciliation bill, is needed to more completely address our changing climate and water security challenges.
In addition to these more “traditional” projects, the infrastructure bill includes a significant number of programs aimed at addressing the challenging drought conditions of the West. This funding comes none too soon, as the situation becomes more dire—the result of ongoing, multiple, connected crises: long-term megadrought, crippling heat waves, and disastrous fire seasons. The bill includes funding to address water and drought in the West through a variety of programs; Audubon is extremely pleased to see the following included:
- $300 million for Drought Contingency Plan implementation, including $50 million for Upper Basin States
- $400 million for WaterSMART Water and Energy Efficiency Grants, including $100 million for natural infrastructure projects
- $100 million for the Cooperative Watershed Management Program, focusing on natural feature or nature-based feature improvement projects
- $250 million for the Aquatic Ecosystem Restoration Program
- $100 million for multi-benefit watershed projects
- $50 million for Colorado River fish species recovery programs
- Reauthorization of the Clean Water and Drinking Water state revolving funds (SRFs) and supplemental appropriations for the following:
- Clean Water SRF: $19.9 billion
- Drinking Water SRF: $17.3 billion
- Lead Line Replacement funds: $15 billion
- PFAS targeted funds: $1 billion through the Clean Water SRF, $4 billion through the Drinking Water SRF, $5 billion through the Small and Disadvantaged Communities drinking water program
- And $1.9 billion in supplemental funding for U.S. Army Corps of Engineers aquatic restoration projects.
(note: all funding amounts are for five years)
The bill also includes funding for water recycling and reuse, rehabilitation and replacement of aging infrastructure, rural water projects, and water storage projects. There are also significant increases in funding for existing Tribal water settlements and provisions to address climate resilience, especially in Indigenous communities. Altogether, the variety of funding amounts to a historic investment in natural, technical, and built solutions for the ongoing water crisis.
We are actively engaged in supporting drought response and water conservation to protect birds and people. The federal funding provided in the infrastructure bill supports our long-term efforts to improve science, provide federal engagement, deliver clean drinking water, and protect natural resources to promote solutions that benefit birds and build resilient communities and ecosystems. Audubon looks forward to the distribution of this funding and the implementation of projects and programs to support birds and people throughout the West.