WATCH: Sen. Kelly Joins CNN’s ‘State of the Union’ to Discuss His Work to Combat Drought, Need for Colorado River Basin States to Work Together

Today, Arizona Senator Mark Kelly joined CNN’s Jake Tapper on ‘State of the Union’ to discuss his work to negotiate and secure $4 billion to combat western drought in the Inflation Reduction Act signed into law. During the interview, Kelly touted Arizona’s leadership on water conservation and emphasized the need for other Colorado River Basin states to step up and do their part to secure the region’s water future. 

Kelly also discussed the stalled negotiations between Colorado River Basin states and again called on the Department of Interior to lay out options to implement drought mitigation measures in order to protect Arizona water resources and the Colorado River system. 

See key excerpts from his interview below:

On the recently announced water cuts for Colorado River Basin states:

Well, Jake, let me start by saying that these cuts were decided during the last administration, the states working together to come up with a plan to deal with this unprecedented drought. We took cuts when Lake Mead fell below 1075 feet above sea level and now again below 1050 feet. 

So, we were anticipating this and the states worked together on this plan. And you’re right, we have this climate crisis that is affecting water in the west. And these reservoirs, Lake Powell and Lake Mead, have gotten to what are now historically low levels. And the rate of decline is such that we have to do more. 

Now, let me make it clear, we’ve got other sources of water other than the Colorado River, I mean, this is water from the Salt River. But the Colorado River is a good amount of our water. It’s important for agriculture. It’s important for communities across the state. But, we’re good at solving hard problems and we’re going to work our way through this one.

On Arizona’s leadership and the need for other Colorado River Basin states to do their part:

Well, Upper Basin states are Utah, Wyoming, Colorado, New Mexico, Lower Basin states, Nevada, California, and Arizona. So far, Arizona is the only one to put a, make a significant offer to leave additional water, I’m not talking about the 21% cut, I’m talking about additional water up in Lake Mead. 

So we need other states to step up. You know, specifically, California gets a large portion of the water from the Colorado River, so it just can’t be on us. This is about, it’s also about food security for our entire nation. If Yuma County doesn’t have the water it needs to grow produce, then that means that those products are going to be more expensive across the entire country.

[…] I’m trying to get some answers from the Department of Interior on more like what authority do they have to make some decisions themselves on this. Because as I said earlier, the other states are not stepping up to help Arizona deal with this. […]

On seeing the climate crisis from space and how the Inflation Reduction Act will help:

I flew my first space flight in 2001 and my last one in 2011 when Gabby was in the hospital. That was four flights over a decade. And the deforestation that you see across the planet is evident from space. And if one guy can see changes in our planet from low-Earth orbit, we’ve got a problem and we’re putting more carbon up into the atmosphere every year. 

Now, the Inflation Reduction Act is giving us some of the tools to deal with this and bring down the amount of carbon that we’re putting in the atmosphere and at the same time, it’s allowing us to create the renewable energy that we need here and build it in the United States and not have to buy stuff from China anymore. So that was a positive first step. 

This climate crisis that we have and the situation we have in the West with wildfires and drought and the snowpack just evaporating instead of melting into the Colorado River, it’s a challenge. But as I said, as Americans, we are really good at solving hard problems, especially engineering problems. So I’m confident, Jake, that we’re going to work our way through this. […]

Watch the full interview HERE. See additional background on Kelly’s continued leadership to combat drought below:

In the Senate, Kelly has worked to protect Arizona’s water resources and secure historic investments that will better secure Arizona’s water future. Kelly successfully negotiated and secured $4 billion in the Inflation Reduction Act signed into law which will help Arizona and the West combat drought. The Kelly-secured funding can be used by the Bureau of Reclamation (BOR) to compensate farmers who voluntarily reduce their water deliveries under short-term or multi-year agreements, as well as projects that conserve water in Lake Mead and Lake Powell. It would also be available to mitigate the environmental effects of shrinking inland waterbodies like the Salton Sea and the Great Salt Lake. 

Last year, Kelly crafted the drought and water infrastructure provisions of the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law specifically securing more than $8 billion to upgrade water infrastructure, $250 million to fully fund the Lower Basin Drought Contingency Plan which will help keep water in Lake Mead, as well as investments for water storage, water recycling, and more.

Kelly has also pushed the Department of Interior and BOR for answers and action on how they intend to ensure agreement on and participation in water conservation between the Colorado River Basin states. Recently, Kelly urged DOI to lay out options to implement drought mitigation measures in order to protect Arizona water resources and the Colorado River system. Kelly continues to hold the administration accountable to ensure it is using every tool at its disposal to protect Arizona and Western states from the impacts of drought.