September 2019, Vol. 246, No. 9


Water Infrastructure Bill Introduced

The Senate is looking to pass bipartisan water infrastructure bills aimed mostly at providing funding for dams, irrigation and water conservation, and rejuvenation projects in the Western U.S. under the auspices of the Bureau of Reclamation, an Interior Department agency. 

Sens. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.), Cory Gardner (R-Colo.), Martha McSally (R-Ariz.) and Kyrsten Sinema (D-Ariz.) introduced the most prominent of three separate bills called the Drought Resiliency and Water Supply Infrastructure Act (S. 1932).

The drought resiliency legislation includes a five-year, $100 million reauthorization of the Bureau of Reclamation’s (BOR) Title XVI Water Reclamation and Reuse competitive grant program, originally authorized in the 2016 Water Infrastructure Improvements for the Nation (WIIN) Act.

It is the only federal program that supports water-recycling. It has a current $50 million funding pool, half of what is being proposed. There are currently 55 Section XVI-WIIN eligible projects awaiting assistance, with a total of more than $550 million in eligible federal cost-share. 

Besides the higher funding level (as always, subject to congressional appropriations) the bill seeks to allow “non-federal entities” to receive funding. Among those: tribes, water users’ associations, inter-state agencies, and joint-powers’ authorities. Storage project definitions are expanded to include conveyance facilities.  

The bill also increases how much federal funding an individual project can obtain, from $20 million to $30 million.  Brenda Burman, commissioner, Bureau of Reclamation, told the Senate Energy Committee, “While some adjustment for inflation may be appropriate, the program remains successful at the current project-specific ceiling of $20 million.” P&GJ

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