Meeting in Springs Preserve Sunday — ironically, in front of bone-dry scrub brush — federal, state, and local leaders gathered to decide how to best spend hundreds of millions of dollars allocated to Nevada for water conservation by the recently passed bipartisan infrastructure bill.
From Department of Interior Secretary Deb Haaland to Southern Nevada Water Authority's John Ensminger, the consensus was clear: Federal infrastructure is critical to solving the continued loss of water in the Colorado River and Lake Mead.
"We're really racing against time to find common-sense solutions," said Democratic U.S. Rep. Susie Lee.
Lee said the infrastructure bill would send $403 million to Nevada alone for water conservation efforts as part of an $8.3 billion investment into the whole country.
She said the money could help projects like the Desert Research Institute's "cloud seeding" research, which attempts to coach more precipitation out of the sky, and a Los Angeles water recycling project that could ease demands on Lake Mead.
Seven states, including California, rely on the Colorado River for drinking water and crop irrigation.
"We have to come up with regional approaches," Lee said. "The federal government plays such a key role in infrastructure."
Haaland said, despite the critical need to save water in the Colorado, the federal government wouldn't ignore indigenous or environmental concerns when green-lighting water-saving projects.
"There's a lot going on with consultation," she said, "not just with tribes but with communities. We don't want to make decisions that not everyone has a say in."
Lee said the infrastructure spending was one of a two-part plan.
The second step, Joe Biden's Build Back Better bill, would invest heavily in programs to reverse or avoid the effects of climate change driving Southern Nevada's water shortage, but that bill has been stuck in negotiations in the U.S. Senate as even some Democratic senators describe the bill as much too costly.