A $ 1 trillion infrastructure bill, endorsed by both parties in the Senate last month, includes billions of dollars for Western water projects and programs.
The Biden administration has called the $ 8.3 billion infrastructure bill for western water infrastructure “the largest investment in the resilience of physical and natural systems in American history.”
Of the $ 8.3 billion for western water, $ 450 million is earmarked for a competitive grant program to fund large-scale water recycling projects.
“This will secure the water future of Nevada residents as well as Americans throughout the Colorado River Basin,” said John Entsminger, general manager of the Southern Nevada Water Authority, this month.
This program could help fund a massive recycling project in California that would give Nevada access to more water in Lake Mead.
Under the proposed project, the Metropolitan Water District of Southern California would recycle wastewater and dump it into the ground for later use, leaving more water in the lake.
In return for funding the project, the Southern Nevada Water Authority would receive a portion of California’s water portion from Lake Mead.
This is one of the ways officials are looking to tackle a shrinking Lake Mead that received its first state deficiency declaration last month. The declaration means that Nevada will cut its water allocation from the Colorado River next year.
Democratic Senator Catherine Cortez Masto, who drafted the bill for the large-scale recycling grant program, said the project could produce enough water to supply more than 500,000 households. (Rep. Susie Lee, D-Nev., Supported similar legislation in the House of Representatives, citing the need for water recycling to tackle the drought in the west.)
“This is a project,” said Cortez Masto at a news agencyconclusion in Las Vegas on September 1st. “It is important for us to continue making these investments in drought resistance across the West.”
Because of this, the infrastructure bill includes $ 8.3 billion for water projects and programs in the west. Senator Jacky Rosen, D-Nev., Also supported the inclusion of water infrastructure in the comprehensive bill.
Break the bill
Most of the money allocated to western water – $ 3.2 billion – will go to aging infrastructure. Another US $ 3 billion will be spent almost equally on water storage and transport, rural water projects and water recycling measures.
An additional $ 1 billion will be allocated to desalination projects and studies, a dam safety program, and the planning, investigation and construction of projects to restore and protect aquatic ecosystems.
Lawmakers also budgeted $ 300 million for drought containment measures in the Colorado River Basin and another $ 50 million for programs to restore and conserve endangered species in the area.
The rest of the western water balance in the Infrastructure Act includes projects to improve and manage water catchment areas as well as federal grants for various water projects.
It’s unclear how much Nevada would get from the package.
The infrastructure has yet to be approved by the House of Representatives before President Joe Biden can sign it.
Money will not solve the West’s problems
Kyle Roerink, executive director of the Great Basin Water Network, said the infrastructure package was only part of the solution to the west’s water problems.
“But if we think we’ll just throw money at all of our problems and fix it all, that’s a stupid errand,” he said. “Money won’t solve the West’s water problems.”
Roerink praised the California-Nevada sewage recycling partnership, but said he suspects the Nevada congressional delegation will use this project to allay concerns about Clark County’s land law.
The bill introduced by Cortez Masto would open tens of thousands of acres for new development while reserving other land for wilderness protection. Roerink said much of the land the bill is supposed to protect is already protected.
Some conservation groups have criticized the measure as a sprawl law, claiming it would enable unsustainable growth.
Cortez Masto said the bill will focus on managing growth and ensuring efficient water use.