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'More important than ever': Arizona lawmakers address growing concerns over water shortages in the west

As Arizona faces severe drought conditions, Senators Mark Kelly and Kyrsten Sinema are looking to modernize western water supplies.
Credit: AP
FILE - A kayaker paddles in Lake Oroville as water levels remain low due to continuing drought conditions in Oroville, Calif., on Aug. 22, 2021. The American West's megadrought deepened so much last year that it is now the driest it has been in at least 1200 years and a worst-case scenario playing out live, a new study finds. (AP Photo/Ethan Swope, File)

PHOENIX — Once again Arizona is under severe drought conditions. It's a problem faced by many western states struggling to manage water resources.

As part of an ongoing effort to combat water shortages Senators Mark Kelly and Kyrsten Sinema, along with Senator Dianne Feinstein of California, introduced a new bill aimed at modernizing our water supply.

The Support to Rehydrate the Environment, Agriculture and Municipalities Act, or STREAM Act, would build on previous spending initiatives to support state efforts in water conservation.

“As Arizona continues to navigate this historic drought, it’s more important than ever to build infrastructure that promotes a secure water future," said Senator Kelly in a press release on Friday.

Kelly went on to say that, "combined with the investments made in the bipartisan infrastructure law, this legislation will help Arizona and the West expand drought resiliency projects, increase groundwater storage, and better manage and conserve our water resources.”

The STREAM Act includes major provisions to achieve each of these goals: 

  • $750 million for water storage
  • $300 million for water recycling
  • $150 million for desalination
  • $100 million for drinking water for disadvantaged communities
  • $150 million for a new, low-interest loan program for water supply projects

Not only that, but the bill also includes $250 million for environmental restoration efforts and $50 million for natural water retention projects.

RELATED: Ongoing drought prompts Mesa to declare water shortage

That's a lot of numbers, and a lot of money, so what would it mean for us here in Arizona?

Part of the money would go towards raising the Bartlett Dam on the Verde River to increase the area's water capacity.

If the bill passes, that money would also go to our desalinization plants and water recycling projects.

That $250 million would mean the start of pay-for-performance environmental restoration approaches that would reward Arizona businesses for focusing on sustainable practices.

And this proposal means that businesses pursuing water conservation and recycling projects would have some extra money available to support their growth.

If the bill passes, it will take effect in the 2024 fiscal year.

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