Hearing to survey Western drought, weigh responses

May 24, 2021

House lawmakers tomorrow will review the drought crisis unfolding across the American West.

Natural Resources Subcommittee on Water, Oceans and Wildlife Chair Jared Huffman (D-Calif.) will also likely discuss recently introduced water infrastructure and drought legislation.

"As the country starts to rebuild from the pandemic," Huffman said in a statement last week, "we are facing another year of devastating droughts in the West."

Huffman said, "We cannot keep lurching from one crisis to the next, and it's become abundantly clear that we must build resilient systems that work for everyone."

Nearly 90% of the West is now experiencing drought conditions, according to the U.S. Drought Monitor, and the problem is particularly acute in the Southwest.

California Gov. Gavin Newsom (D) recently expanded an emergency drought order to cover nearly a third of his state's population and several major agricultural areas (Greenwire, May 11).

The committee will discuss the role of climate change in the worsening drought, as well as near- and long-term solutions.

Huffman last week reintroduced his "Future Western Water Infrastructure and Drought Resiliency Act," H.R. 3404.

The bill includes more than $1 billion for various water projects, including $750 million for multibenefit water storage projects, $500 million for water recycling and reuse, and $260 million for water desalinization projects.

It also contains provisions to boost water technology and data collection, as well as ecosystem protection and restoration.

Huffman's bill is backed by a wide range of interests, from various local public utilities and water districts to the Environmental Defense Fund and National Wildlife Federation. It previously passed the House within a large infrastructure bill in the summer of 2020.

Schedule: The hearing is Tuesday, May 25, at 1 p.m. via webcast.


  • Elizabeth Klein, senior counselor to the Interior secretary.
  • Craig McLean, NOAA acting chief scientist.
  • Joaquin Esquivel, California State Water Resources Control Board chair.
  • Amy Cordalis, counsel for the Yurok Tribe and principal for the Ridges to Riffles Conservation Fund.
  • John Entsminger, Southern Nevada Water Authority general manager.
  • Michael Markus, Orange County Water District general manager.
  • Tom Collishaw, Self-Help Enterprises CEO.
  • Dan Keppen, Family Farm Alliance executive director.
  • Craig Foss, Idaho state forester.

By:  Jeremy P. Jacobs
Source: E&E News