The federal government intends to provide immediate assistance to water users affected by the West’s historic drought and develop long-term strategies to respond to climate change, US Interior Secretary Deb Haaland pledged during a visit to Denver on Thursday.
Haaland — along with Assistant Interior Secretary for Water and Science Tanya Trujillo, U.S. Representative Diana DeGate, D-Denver, and Denver Water CEO Jim Lochhead — spoke to the press after meeting with state and local officials at the Denver Water Administration Building. To collaborate on addressing climate change and water-related issues in the West.
Haaland said the Bureau of Reclamation is working to identify and spread “immediate financial and technical assistance for affected irrigation and Indian tribes” while building more resilient communities and protecting the natural environment from long-term climate change responses. Dealing with it too.
“Being from New Mexico, I know how much climate change affects our communities, from extended fire seasons to intense droughts and water shortages, and I know how important the Colorado River Basin is to these discussions. Haaland said.
“Drought doesn’t affect just one community,” he said. “It affects all of us, from farmers and pastoralists to city dwellers and Indian tribes. We all have a role to use water wisely, manage our resources keeping each community in mind, work together and respect each other in these challenging times.”
More than a third of Colorado is in a state of severe drought, Daggett said during the news conference.
“The Colorado River, which serves 40 million people across the West, has been exploited,” DeGate said. “The river beds have dried up, the reservoirs that supply us with clean drinking water are essentially empty.”
While the Front Range is home to 80% of Colorado’s population, it only holds about 20% of the state’s water, DeGate said.
“Most of our water in Denver comes from the Western Slope,” DeGate said. “That’s why it’s so important that everyone works together and takes the national lead through the Secretary Haalland and Biden administrations to address the very real and emerging issue of climate change… The ones we’re looking at like fire right now, drought and more.”
Holland heads to Grand Junction—where she’ll visit the Bureau of Land Management’s new headquarters for the first time—and later in the week to discuss preparations for the Ridgeway wildfires and the state’s outdoor recreation economy.