What does the Inflation Reduction Act mean for rivers

Published 8/25/2022  |  American Rivers
Colorado River, AZ | Photo by Fred Phillips

On August 16, 2022 President Biden signed into law the Inflation Reduction Act, which will provide an estimated $369 billion to tackle climate change over the next decade. That’s a big number, but what does it mean for rivers?

Overall, this is a bold step forward, as it provides a significant investment that would cut carbon emissions by 40% by 2030, and provides over $30 billion in financial assistance for green house gas reduction projects. In a country like the U.S. where passing climate change legislation can be difficult, these investments could be game- changing.

Here are some key provisions:

Drought Response 

$4 billion for water infrastructure modernization projects, as well as projects to reduce harmful effects of drought on rivers and inland water bodies. This comes in three main forms:

  1. Water users would be compensated for voluntary reductions that are made in water deliveries.
  1. Conservation projects to help bolster water levels in the Colorado River system would receive funding support.
  1. Environmental restoration projects to mitigate damage from drought con- ditions will be a central priority.

The funds, to be administered by the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation over the next four years, could be used to pay farmers, rural districts and others to fallow crops and in- stall efficient watering technology, or to pay for other voluntary water reductions in the Lower and Upper Colorado Basins, which combined provide drinking water and irri- gation to nearly 40 million people across seven states and Mexico.

Tribal Nations 

$12.5 million through FY 26 for near-term drought relief actions to mitigate drought impacts for Indian tribes that are impacted by the operation of a Bureau of Reclamation water project.

$220 million for tribal climate resilience and adaptation programs, and $10 million for fish hatchery operations and maintenance programs at the Bureau of Indian Affairs.

Conservation and Climate Resilience

$3 billion in grants to states, tribes and municipalities and community-based nonprofit organizations for financial and technical assistance to address clean air and climate pollution in disadvantaged communities.

$3 billion in investment to help reduce air pollution and carbon emissions at and surrounding our nation’s ports. Most of our nation’s ports continue to use antiquated diesel technology that pollutes our air, harms our planet, and is not fuel efficient.

$250 million for wildlife recovery and to rebuild and restore units of the National Wildlife Refuge System and state wildlife management areas. Restored habitat will mit- igate the impacts of climate-induced weather events and increase resiliency, benefit- ting wildlife and surrounding communities.

$2.6 billion for NOAA to assist coastal states, the District of Columbia, Tribal Gov- ernments, local governments, nonprofit organizations, and institutions of higher edu- cation to become more prepared and resilient to changes in climate.

$190 million for high performance computing capacity and research for weather, oceans and climate.

$50 million for NOAA to administer climate research grants to address climate challenges such as impacts of extreme events; water availability and quality; impacts of changing ocean conditions on marine life; improved greenhouse gas and ocean carbon monitoring; coastal resilience and sea level rise. This research will provide the science that Americans need to understand how, where, and when Earth’s conditions are changing.

$12 million to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to develop and implement recov- ery plans under Section 4(f) of the Endangered Species Act of 1973. Section 4(f) of the Endangered Species Act requires the Secretary to develop and implement recov- ery plans for listed species.

$250 million to carry out projects for the conservation, protection and resiliency of lands and resources administered by the National Park Service (NPS) and the Bureau of Land Management (BLM).

$250 million to carry out conservation, ecosystem and habitat restoration projects on lands administered by the NPS and BLM.

Environmental Justice 

$1.5 billion to plant trees, establish community and urban forests, and expand green spaces in cities, which combats climate change and provides significant community benefits by increasing recreation opportunities, cooling cities, lowering electric bills, and reducing heat-related death and illness.

$50 million for investments in Urban Parks through grants to localities for acquisi- tion of land or interests in land, or for development of recreation facilities to create or significantly enhance access to parks or outdoor recreation in urban areas.

$397.5 million for programs aimed at building resilience across Tribal govern- ments and communities by providing support to transition electrified homes to re- newable energy sources and provide renewable energy to homes without electricity; address drinking water shortages and provide financial assistance for drought relief; maintain and operate hatcheries; and fund Tribal climate resilience and adaptation programs.

$550 million to ensure disadvantaged communities have the resources needed to plan, design, and construct water supply projects, particularly in communities and households that do not currently have reliable domestic water supplies.

$1 billion to improve Energy Efficiency or Water Efficiency or Climate Resilience of Affordable Housing, that help covers the cost of energy efficiency upgrades.

$1.9 billion to support efforts to improve walkability, safety, and affordable transportation access, including natural infrastructure and stormwater management improvements related to surface transportation in disadvantaged areas.


$260 billion in new and extended clean-energy tax credits meant to incentivize energy companies and public utilities to produce more solar, wind and hydropower energy.

It also expands or creates a host of new environmental tax credits for electric vehicles, residential and commercial buildings, certain manufacturing, and carbon sequestration.

Wildfire Protections and other Forestry improvements 

$5 billion to protect communities from wildfires while combating the climate crisis and supporting the workforce through climate-smart forestry, including:

  • $2.15 billion for National Forest System Restoration and Fuels Reduction projects
  • $1.8B for hazardous fuels reduction projects on National Forest System land within the wildland-urban interface
  • $200M for vegetation management projects on National Forest System land
  • $100M for environmental reviews by the Chief of the Forest Service
  • $50M for the protection of old-growth forests on National Forest System land and to complete an inventory of old-growth forests and mature forests within the National Forest System

Plus $2.75 billion for investing in climate-smart forestry to boost carbon sequestration and another $1.5B to provide grants for tree planting and related activities.

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