Congress’ bipartisan infrastructure bill includes $8.3 billion for Western water. Here’s how Colorado stands to benefit.

Jesse Paul
The Colorado Sun

The nearly $1 trillion infrastructure bill set to be debated in Congress in the coming weeks would send money to a wide range of priorities, from road and bridge repairs to expanding public transportation and broadband.

But the biggest boon for Colorado may not be money that would be spent helping move people around. It would likely come from the $8.3 billion the measure seeks for Western water projects.

“When I look at the three biggest things in this package for Colorado, water is first,” said U.S. Sen. John Hickenlooper, a Colorado Democrat. “I think it’s going to be a lot more than a drop in the bucket. It’s going to be a watershed moment.”

The legislation is still being finalized, but it appears to have enough Republican support in the Senate to clear the 60-vote filibuster threshold.

Money for the plan would come from, among other sources, repurposed COVID-19 relief and unemployment aid, the sale of broadcast spectrum, reinstating fees that chemical companies used to pay for cleaning up the nation’s worst hazardous waste sites and drawing $49 billion from reversing a Trump-era pharmaceutical rebate.

Of the $8.3 billion, $300 million would go directly to carrying out the Colorado River Basin Drought Contingency Plan, a seven-state agreement where each sacrifices to ensure there’s sufficient water to meet the demands of the 40 million people who rely on the river.

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