Daines Calls on Senate to Take Up Rural Water Bills

WASHINGTON, D.C. —  Senator Steve Daines today reaffirmed his commitment to moving forward Montana rural water projects and called on the Senate to take up his bills to ensure the completion of authorized projects across Montana.

During today’s Energy and Natural Resources hearing on western water legislation, Daines emphasized the challenges associated with inadequate water management in western communities, including many regions in Montana.

“My bills would facilitate water delivery to over 23 million acres in Montana and millions more acres across the West for rural communities without good access to quality water supply today,” Daines stated. “If we are going to address our drought and water supply crises west-wide, I believe these bills should be part of the solution.”

Daines’ bills— S. 1552 the Clean Water for Rural Communities Act and S. 1365, the Authorized Rural Water Projects Completion Act – provide much-needed funding and authorization for the construction and completion of critical rural water infrastructure projects in Montana and other states. Both of Daines’ bill received their first Senate hearing on June 18, 2015. 

S. 1365, the Authorized Rural Water Projects Completion Act, would provide consistent resources to complete the construction of rural water projects that have already been authorized by Congress and also ensure dedicated funding for implementation of Indian water rights settlements. 

The bill, which Daines cosponsored with Senator Jon Tester, would ensure adequate funding is directed to projects in rural communities in North Dakota, South Dakota, Montana, New Mexico, Minnesota, and Iowa that would provide much-needed access to water supplies. 

S. 1552, the Clean Water for Rural Communities Act, authorizes two Bureau of Reclamation rural water projects—Dry-Redwater Rural Water System (DRWA) and Musselshell-Judith Rural Water System (CMWA).  

Daines’ bill, which is also cosponsored by Tester, will collectively facilitate water treatment and delivery to 22,500 residents in Dawson, Garfield, McCone, Prairie, Richland, Judith Basin, Wheatland, Golden Valley, Fergus, Yellowstone, and Musselshell Counties in Montana and McKenzie County, North Dakota.  

Though several rural water projects have already received Congressional authorization, they struggle to receive the funds needed to complete construction in a timely and efficient manner. Between 1980 and 2007, Congress directed the Bureau to undertake 11 specific rural water supply projects, some of which remain uncompleted. There currently is no predictable funding for the remaining projects, because construction funding must be secured annually through the appropriations process and there is a significant backlog in construction funding for these projects.

Daines introduced similar legislation in the 113th Congress that would have provided rural communities the support necessary to finally complete rural water projects that have been underfunded for several years.