Funding announced for drought and drinking water

During a tour of increasingly arid California on Thursday, US Secretary of the Interior Deb Haaland visited a water recycling project in Irvine to tout the allocation of more than $310 million dollars from his department to fight a Western “mega-drought” fueled in large part by climate change.

Joined by Rep. Katie Porter (D-Irvine) and U.S. Bureau of Reclamation Commissioner Camille Calimlim Touton, Haaland stood in front of heavy equipment at the Siphon Tank Improvement Project and said that She felt “thrilled” to announce funding for 25 water recycling projects, 20 of which are in California.

“These projects will advance drought resilience by strengthening water reuse and recycling techniques while helping more than 850,000 people provide clean, reliable drinking water to families across the West,” Haaland said.

Haaland’s announcement comes a week after Governor Gavin Newsom warned that California could lose 10% of its water supply by 2040. The governor has pledged to revamp state strategies to address challenges. challenges of a “warmer, drier future”, including building its water recycling capabilities.

The funding announced Thursday will come from the bipartisan infrastructure bill that President Biden signed into law last year. It allocated $8.3 billion to the Bureau of Reclamation for water infrastructure projects.

The Irvine Ranch Water District Siphon Reservoir Improvement Project, which aims to store enough recycled water to meet future needs, is set to receive $12.2 million from the Department of the Interior; the district serves 500,000 customers.

Porter called the Irvine Ranch Water District a “national leader” in the effort to conserve and expand the water supply. She applauded the funding allocation announced by her former congressional colleague.

“The longer we wait to act,” Porter said, “the harder and more expensive it will become to solve both the water crisis and climate change.”

Paul Cook, general manager of the Irvine Ranch Water District, described the project as a big undertaking that would take four years to build before it could be completed by 2028.

Another water official, however, expressed frustration with the way the federal government has provided aid and said a “new paradigm” for subsidies is needed in the face of recurring drought.

“$310 million is not providing a new water supply, and we’re running dry in California,” said Steve Sheldon, chairman of the Orange County Water District. “Instead of pouring out multimillion-dollar grants to projects that by and large will already be built, our federal and state governments should prioritize funding and expedite approvals to build facilities. large-scale water supply which, under current circumstances, would not be built.

Sheldon said that currently, for projects to apply for grants, they must have an approved environmental impact report, which he says can cost millions of dollars. Most water districts won’t spend that money unless they’re relatively sure they’ll go ahead with the project, he said.

Water infrastructure in the western United States has become an increasingly urgent priority as the region experiences the driest 23-year period in 1,200 years.

Recently, the Bureau of Reclamation invoked previously negotiated water cuts in Arizona, Nevada and Mexico after Colorado River Basin states failed to agree on ordered water usage reductions. by the Biden administration. And, with the drought expected to continue, many projects expected to be boosted by Home Office funding will not be operational for years.

At Thursday’s press conference, Wade Crowfoot, California’s secretary of natural resources, urged Californians to reduce their water use in the interim.

He said despite “a few slow starts,” the Californians were making progress. By July, he said, residents had reduced their water use “by more than 10%” compared to 2020 – the first year of the drought. Newsom, however, asked city water users to voluntarily reduce 15%

Asked by reporters about California’s closeness to statewide mandatory cuts, Crowfoot acknowledged that “all options are on the table.”

The Interior Department’s announcement also came on the heels of Biden signing the Cut Inflation Act, which officials welcomed at the Irvine press conference. The legislation includes $4 billion to address the water crisis along the Colorado River.

Haaland touted the two laws as representing the “biggest investments in drought resilience” in the country’s history.

“Water is essential to everything we do,” Haaland said. “None of us can live without it. It fuels our economy, sustains our environment and, quite frankly, keeps us alive.

Los Angeles Times

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