Drought in western US heats up as political hot potato – Kelowna Capital News

Inflation, abortion and a crime-ridden midterm election season have another issue that is becoming more pressing in the West. It’s a drought.

While water issues have historically played little to no role in most campaign advertisements in the region, funds to combat drought are popping up in door-knocking campaigns and advocacy groups are rallying. Vulnerable Democratic incumbents and voters in two states with imminent water cuts: Nevada and Arizona.

“This issue appeals to our voters and our people’s financial concerns,” said Angel Lazcano, organizer of Las Vegas-based Somos Votantes.

Federal officials recently announced that Nevada and Arizona will see their water supplies drop significantly in 2023 as drought, climate change, and demand worsen control of the Colorado River. The federal government has threatened to impose deeper and broader cuts if the seven waterway-dependent states can’t agree on how to reduce their use.

Two vulnerable incumbents whose states have been hit hardest by cuts — Katherine Cortez Mast of Nevada and Mark Kelly of Arizona — seized the opportunity to seek funding through federal law. They were joined by Senator Michael Bennett, who is seeking re-election in Colorado, and Senator Kirsten Cinema of Arizona. His four senators in the West have negotiated $4 billion in last-minute funding to address the growing regional water crisis with the Inflation Reduction Act.

With fierce competition in Nevada and Arizona, last-minute $4 billion in Colorado River Basin cuts and drought relief funding will make access to water a key factor in determining the two most important Senate elections of this cycle. It will be a test of how influential you are.

Although not yet allocated, drought relief funds generally go to farmers who leave their fields uncultivated and are paid for water conservation and habitat restoration projects.

In a brief interview, Cortez Masto said he believed this was not a campaign problem, but a problem of the West as a whole.

Somos Votantes has released an ad in English and Spanish to thank Cortez Masto for funding. In Arizona, the Environmental Defense Fund did the same for cinema, and Kelly promoted the fund on social media.

Drought is a politically ambiguous issue, said Kathleen Ferris, a senior water policy researcher at Arizona State University. She doesn’t think the relief money will affect the election, and even the cuts on the Colorado River haven’t reached the level of other hot issues.

Campaigns have so far struggled to communicate complex water policies, she said, because there are so many interest groups with stakes.

“It’s not always easy to say ‘Well, I do this’ to hurt this group, or ‘I do that’ to hurt another group,” said Ferris, a senior research fellow at ASU’s Morrison Institute. Said. Public Policy. “So most of the time what they say is ‘convene the stakeholders’, ‘have a solid argument’, ‘find a path’. Well, that’s not very appealing to voters. .”

In the broader context of historic megadroughts, funds are scarce. A farmer in Yuma, Arizona, has already demanded more than a quarter of his funding, and projects elsewhere that convert seawater into drinking water often cost billions of dollars.

Projects in Nevada and Arizona may be prioritized, but 17 states are eligible for funding and will be distributed by 2026.

Questions also remain about whether the one-time allocation will turn into an annual benefit. If so, experts say other funding requests from states not dependent on the river could be scrutinized.

The watershed cuts don’t result in new restrictions anytime soon, but they do indicate that unpopular decisions on how to cut consumption may soon be made.

Nowhere is the effects of drought more visible than on Lake Mead, the largest reservoir of the Colorado River, which supplies water to nearby Las Vegas. Residents have seen human remains and ancient relics reveal themselves as levels descend.

Lazcano, the community organizer of the Somos Votantes that backed Cortez Masto, knocked on doors and hosted events in Las Vegas’s Latino neighborhoods, while supporting the city’s robust water reuse infrastructure and drought relief funds. provides $4 billion as

He touts drought relief as an environmental and economic problem, impacting jobs and opportunities second only to rising gas prices, labor shortages and inflation.

“I feel like people have a surface level understanding of what’s going on,” he said. “They’re hearing cuts and money coming in, but they’re not too sure how they’re going to take it. That’s where we come in. How it is or these tell them what it means to invest in

The funding has received mixed reactions from Republican candidates in Nevada.

While Republicans have denounced the anti-inflation measures in their entirety, Republican lawmakers and candidates have not denied that the drought requires an urgent response.

Adam Laxalt, who plays against Cortez Masto, has largely avoided talking about the drought. In his email, he said he supports efforts to address Nevada’s water problem, noting that the crisis “didn’t happen overnight.”

The Inflation Reduction Act would contribute to further inflation, he said, and Cortés Masto should have secured the funds without supporting a larger bill.

Sam Peters, the Republican candidate for Nevada’s 4th congressional district, which covers much of the central Nevada countryside to the northern edge of the Las Vegas area, said Democrats “have no real solution.” “We are throwing money at the water,” and criticized that we are paying farmers not to use water. ’ He suggested desalination as a long-term solution.

Rep. Mark Amodai, Nevada’s only Republican congressman, supported the general idea of ​​funding, also pointing to desalination, a technology that removes salt from seawater and turns it into potable water.

A $1.4 billion desalination project in California, backed by Democratic Gov. was denied.

Days after the Inflation Reduction Act was passed, Amodai sent out a blog post outlining the provisions deepening the country’s economic woes, without mentioning the drought.

Asked about the drought financing later, he said it was “probably some of the most egregious” of the act.

— Gabe Stern, Associated Press

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Drought in western US heats up as political hot potato – Kelowna Capital News

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