Romney Joins Colleagues in Introducing Bill to Boost Support for Programs to Reduce Salinity of the Colorado River

WASHINGTON—U.S. Senator Mitt Romney (R-UT) today joined Senators Michael Bennet (D-CO) and Cynthia Lummis (R-WY) in introducing the Colorado River Salinity Control Fix Act, legislation which would provide greater support for Colorado River Basin water users and local governments working to reduce the salt load in the Colorado River. Senators Alex Padilla (D-CA), John Barrasso (R-WY), Kyrsten Sinema (I-AZ), Dianne Feinstein (D-CA), and John Hickenlooper (D-CO) are also original cosponsors of this legislation.

“Reducing the salinity of the Colorado River benefits Utah, and its sister Basin states, by ensuring that we meet water quality standards while increasing the economic opportunities and infrastructure of our local communities,” said Senator Romney. “Unfortunately, decreases in hydropower revenues as a result of our historic drought and increases in the costs of implementing salinity projects have left our states with insufficient funds to meet our current cost share requirement. I’m proud to cosponsor this bipartisan legislation, which is a long-sought priority for Utah, to help our state shoulder the costs of desalinizing the Colorado River.”

“The Colorado River is the lifeblood of the American West, and its water is a precious resource for communities in Colorado and the industries that drive our economy. As our population grows and as we face a hotter and drier future, the federal government needs to provide greater support for state and local leaders to protect our water supply,” said Senator Bennet. “This bill supports ongoing efforts to keep water from the Colorado River safe for communities, farmers and ranchers, and water users throughout the entire Basin. I look forward to working with my colleagues to pass this bipartisan legislation.”

“The Colorado River is a major source of water for Wyoming residents and businesses. Reducing salinity in the river is key to ensuring Wyoming continues to have access to usable water,” said Senator Lummis. “I’m proud to join my colleagues in introducing the Colorado River Basin Salinity Control Fix Act to help implement important infrastructure projects on the river to reduce salt levels.”

“The Salinity Control Program has been a critical tool to protect the water quality of the Colorado River to the benefit of Utah water users and those in our sister Basin states,” said Utah’s Colorado River Commissioner Gene Shawcroft. “The changes to the Salinity Control Act will shore up the Program’s finances and ensure that needed salinity projects are adequately funded in the future. I applaud Senators Romney, Lummis, and Bennet for their leadership in bringing important improvements to this Program.”

“Over the years the Colorado River Basin Salinity Control Program has been successful in reducing the damages to water users caused by the high level of salts, most of which come from federally administered lands, in the Colorado River. However, damages still exceed $350 million annually. The Program is funded through appropriations and a cost-share which comes from a mill levy on power sales from federal projects within the Colorado River Basin. However, in recent years, due to prolonged drought and increased costs, the power revenues have been insufficient to provide the needed cost-share dollars. The proposed legislation, which is supported by all seven Colorado River Basin States, adjusts the cost-share percentages on portions of the Program to bring the cost-share in balance with Program needs,” said Don Barnett, Executive Director of the Colorado River Basin Salinity Control Forum.


Nearly 40 million people across seven states and more than 30 Tribes rely on water from the Colorado River. However, naturally-occurring salinity affects the ability to harness this water source for agricultural, municipal, and industrial water users. High salinity levels can reduce crop yields, limit which crops can grow, and even kill trees and make the land unsuitable for agriculture.

The Colorado River Basin Salinity Control Act of 1974 authorized and supported salinity control projects and research across the American West, including through the Bureau of Reclamation’s Basin States Program and the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Natural Resources Conservation Service Environmental Quality Incentives Program. These programs provide assistance to farmers, ranchers, and water users who utilize salinity control measures. The Colorado River Salinity Control Fix Act would increase the federal cost-share for these salinity control programs across the Colorado River Basin. The text of the bill is available here.