Representative Melanie Stansbury (US House, NM-01) recently introduced two bipartisan bills that address water issues across the West. The Water Data Act and Rio Grande Water Security Act were introduced in late May 2022 with fellow Reps. Burgess Owens (UT), Susie Lee (NV), and Herrell (NM), with Senators Martin Heinrich (NM) and Ben Ray Lujan (NM), and additional sponsors.
These bills lay the groundwork for the transformation to a forward-looking, modernized approach to handling water data for improved water management. The Western US is feeling extreme water security challenges, highlighted by the historic drought in the west, with critical water reservoirs at critically low levels and wildfires raging. These comprehensive bills address the need to shift from historic to modern water resource management processes, starting with how we handle information about water.
Following the 2019 New Mexico Water Data Act, developed by then state representative Melanie Stansbury, New Mexico is a leading state in utilizing a modernized data infrastructure. The New Mexico Water Data Initiative has worked for the past three years to lay the groundwork for integrated data collection, access, and utilization. Many of the tenets laid out in the New Mexico Water Data Act are mirrored in the federal bills introduced by Rep. Stansbury. This is an incredibly exciting time in water resource management.
The federal Water Data Act proposes transforming and modernizing water data by establishing a national data framework that will increase the accessibility and usability of water data. Methods for integrating, sharing, and utilizing data will also be established. The development of innovative water data technologies and tools is supported with the development of common water data standards. This bill provides funds and assistance to state, tribal, and local entities through a water data grant program. These funds will support non-federal entities to make water data findable, accessible, interoperable and reusable, to further the building of water data infrastructure, and to support programs and projects that facilitate water data sharing and participation in the National Water Data Framework. These grants also incentivize innovation and development of next-generation water data tools.
The Rio Grande Water Security Act will support coordination and water needs throughout the Rio Grande corridor. This will work with a data-informed water resource management plan, organized by a Rio Grande Basin Working Group that will recommend improvements for water infrastructure, data, monitoring, conservation, and collaboration for the coming decades. Informed water security will better serve our growing western populations, agriculture, and other economic sectors.
A fact sheet on the Water Data Act is here and the full bill text is here. A fact sheet on the Rio Grande Water Security Act is here and the full bill text is here. The full release on Rep. Stansbury’s webpage is here.