Rep. Ken Buck introduces bill designed to make it easier for rural water providers to invest in infrastructure
January 13, 2017
To read H.R. 519, known as the WATER Act, which would make it easier for rural water providers to make infrastructure improvements, click here.
Rep. Ken Buck, R-Colo., introduced a bill Friday designed to make it easier for rural water providers to invest in infrastructure.
The measure, H.R. 519, known as the Water and Agriculture Tax Reform Act — or WATER Act — of 2017, would permit mutual water and storage delivery companies to retain their nonprofit status even if they receive more than 15 percent of their revenue from nonmember sources, according to a news release from Buck's office.
The additional nonmember revenue raised under the act must be used for maintenance, operations and infrastructure improvements.
Carlyle Currier, vice president of the Colorado Farm Bureau and chairman of the board of the Colorado Agricultural Water Alliance, said the measure could make a meaningful difference for farmers if it becomes law.
"In an extreme example it could keep a farmer in business, if they're struggling financially and have an opportunity to lease part of their water for a short time, a year or two," he said. "They might be able to do that in a way that allows them to earn some extra money keep the bankers at bay for a year or two."
Currier said under current law, a farmer who is part of a mutual ditch company and needed to lease water may not be able to do so. The revenue from a lease agreement could push the company over the tax-exempt threshold. The other members of the ditch company, therefore, might have to veto the lease agreement.
Additionally, Currier said, the bill would give ditch companies the flexibility they need to invest in infrastructure. That's especially important in places like Weld County, where there is plenty of oil and gas drilling. Ditch companies that own property would be able use revenue from drilling to build up their infrastructure without fear that doing so would cost them their tax-exempt status.
By allowing these companies to raise additional revenue from nonmembers, they can offer more affordable water resources to their members, Buck said.
"Farmers and ranchers around the 4th Congressional District support this legislation because they need affordable water," Buck said in the release. "We worked hard on this legislation last year and I'm hopeful that this year we'll see it pass the House and Senate and signed into law."
The measure has been a key legislative priority for Buck, a Windsor resident. The measure passed out of the House Ways and Means Committee last year before falling victim to a busy calendar in the House. It never received a floor vote. This year, supporters are hopeful the bill will move through the House quickly, Buck spokesman Kyle Huwa said in an email. He said so far as he knows there were no substantive issues that held up the bill last year.
Currier said the proposed change to the law is long overdue.
"The laws were originally written many years ago, and the situation is much different today," he said. "The way we manage water is much different today."