$179 million to go to water recycling projects in western states

May 31, 2024

The U.S. Department of Interior is making $179 million available for drought resilience measures in the Western states and water reuse and recycling projects. The funds will flow to four projects in Utah and California to increase the availability of water sources in drought-prone regions.

“Water is essential to everything we do: feeding families, growing crops, powering agricultural businesses, sustaining wildlife and safeguarding Tribal subsistence practices,” Interior Secretary Deb Haaland said in a press release. “As the climate crisis drives severe drought conditions across the West, it will take all of us working together to safeguard our communities and enhance water reliability.”

The funding is part of the Interior Department’s Large-Scale Water Recycling program, which received $450 million through passage of the 2021 Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act. The program is intended to provide up to a 25% federal funding match for major state projects with total budgets over half a billion dollars.

The Large-Scale Water Recycling program is only one part of a larger effort at reusing, recycling and conserving water spearheaded by the Interior Department’s Bureau of Reclamation. The Bureau has an even larger supply of infrastructure funds – $8.3 billion to give out to state and local projects over five years. Since 2021, the bureau has provided $3.5 billion to more than 530 projects across the nation.

“These historic investments will add a significant tool to our toolbox to bolster drought resilience in communities across the country,” Reclamation Commissioner Camille Calimlim Touton said.

With the latest $179 million flowing to four water recycling projects, California is the biggest winner. The Metropolitan Water District of Southern California is receiving $99 million for a new facility, Pure Water Southern California. Once it is completed, the facility will be able to produce 118,590 acre-feet of recycled water, enough to provide water for about 470,000 people per year. The project is expected to reduce Southern California’s reliance on the Colorado River, which has been stricken with water shortages leading to regional disputes over water rights.

“The Pure Water Project is a shining example of what the partnership between local water agencies like the Metropolitan Water District of Southern California and the Los Angeles County Sanitation Districts can accomplish,” said Grace Napolitano, a Congresswoman from El Monte, California, in a press release. “Water instability and unpredictable drought cycles will affect us for years to come, and ensuring water security for our communities requires this type of collaboration between all.”

The Pure Water facility is not the only project in California receiving federal funding. $30 million will flow to the city of Buenaventura for another water recycling plant. The city of Los Angeles will also receive $30 million for a program aimed at replenishing groundwater supplies.

In Utah, $20.5 million will go to the Washington County Water Conservancy District, which serves as the regional water district for the city of St. George and the surrounding area in Southwest Utah including Zion National Park. The funds will go toward a large water reuse system.

Photo courtesy of the California Water Environment Association

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