Interior Announces $16.5M To Support Tribes Impacted by Drought

WASHINGTON, D.C. – The Department of the Interior announced the availability of $16.5 million through the Bureau of Reclamation to expand access to clean, reliable water supplies for tribes confronted by drought conditions that threaten tribal homelands, food sources, and cultural resources. Two funding opportunities are now available through Reclamation’s Native American Affairs Program: a $12.5 million investment from President Biden’s Investing in America agenda – funded through the Inflation Reduction Act – and $4 million in annual funding for technical assistance and cooperative agreements.  

Funding from Reclamation’s Native American Affairs Program has previously supported projects including irrigation projects; municipal, industrial, and rural water systems; dam construction and dam safety; drought relief; emergency assistance; planning and engineering studies; and other activities that facilitate the negotiations and implementation of Indian water rights settlements. This round of funding is available without cost-share or matching requirements, making it easier for smaller and less-resourced tribes to access this critical funding.   

“As tribal communities across the West experience severe drought conditions, we are bringing every tool and every resource to bear, including historic investments through President Biden’s Investing in America agenda, to conserve and secure local water supplies, and ensure no community is left behind,” said Secretary Deb Haaland. “Today’s funding opportunity will allow us to partner with tribes on projects that can have a real, tangible impact in Indian Country.” 

“Reclamation is committed to working with sovereign nations to mitigate the devastating impacts of drought while securing ongoing investments in tribal water projects,” said Reclamation Commissioner Camille Calimlim Touton. “This year’s additional emergency drought funding has no cost-share or matching requirements, helping get dollars to Indigenous communities swiftly and leveraging near-term efforts to build drought resilience in the face of a changing climate.” 

Commissioner Touton announced the funding opportunity at the third Post-2026 Federal-Tribes-State partnership meeting – a new forum to enhance tribal engagement and promote equitable information-sharing and discussion among the sovereign governments as the Department develops guidelines for the next several years of management of the Colorado River. 

President Biden’s Investing in America agenda represents the largest investment in climate resilience in the nation’s history and is providing much-needed resources to enhance Western communities’ resilience to drought and climate change. Through the Inflation Reduction Act, Reclamation is investing nearly $4.6 billion to advance water system conservation and mitigate drought impacts, building on $8.3 billion provided through the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law to revitalize aging water infrastructure systems, advance water reuse methods and deliver water resources to rural and hard to reach communities.

Tribes and tribal organizations in the 17 Western states in which Reclamation operates are encouraged to apply for both funding opportunities. Technical assistance grants and cooperative agreements are available up to $400,000. Grants for emergency drought relief must provide drought relief benefits within two years from the date of award and be completed within three years. The maximum award per project is limited to $500,000, and the maximum total awards per tribe is limited to $1 million.

This funding opportunity advances the Biden-Harris administration’s ambitious environmental justice agenda through the Justice40 Initiative, which set the goal that 40 percent of the overall benefits of certain covered federal investments flow to disadvantaged or Justice40 communities, which include all federally recognized tribes and tribal entities.