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Bipartisan Infrastructure Package Includes Historic Funding for Western Water Recycling, Leaves Rest of Country High-and-Dry

Date: August 10, 2021

Today, the U.S. Senate passed bipartisan infrastructure legislation, the Infrastructure and Jobs Act, which will invest $1 billion over five years in water recycling programs for the Western United States. This is an historic investment in water recycling, which until now has received roughly $65 million per year through the Bureau of Reclamation.  

The WateReuse Association worked closely with congressional champions to secure this funding. We extend our particular thanks to Senators Diane Feinstein (D-CA) and Senator Catherine Cortez Masto (D-NV) for championing this funding during the course of debate.

The legislation also contains a second WateReuse priority—the creation of a federal Interagency Working Group on Water Reuse, which will break down silos, leverage resources throughout the federal family, and facilitate stakeholder engagement on water recycling.

Unfortunately, where the Infrastructure and Jobs Act invests in Western climate resilience, it leaves the rest of the country high-and-dry. WateReuse has advocated for at least $100 million per year in direct spending for a nationwide resiliency program called the Alternative Water Source Grants Pilot Program. The program would expand access to water recycling tools and resources beyond the 17 Western states.

Through the program, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) would make competitive grants to state, interstate, and intrastate water resource development agencies to engineer, design, construct, and test alternative water source systems, including water reuse systems. Communities in all 50 states plus the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico would be eligible to apply for funding. The bipartisan package contains no direct spending for the program. Instead, it simply retains authorizing language from the Drinking Water and Wastewater Infrastructure Act (S. 914), authorizing Congress to appropriate up to $25 million per year for the program.

WateReuse congratulates the Senate on passage of the landmark bipartisan infrastructure package. As Congress turns now toward the budget reconciliation process, we are hopeful that Senate Environment and Public Works (EPW) Committee Chairman Tom Carper (D-DE), EPW Water Subcommittee Chair Tammy Duckworth (D-IL), and members of the EPW Committee will come together to help communities in all 50 states address the challenges of climate change by investing $100 million per year in the Alternative Water Source Grants Pilot Program.

Examples of how water reuse is building climate resiliency around the country include:

  • New York City’s Battery Park: Using Onsite, Distributed Water Recycling to Build Resilience to Hurricanes and Extreme Rain Events
  • Virginia’s Tidewater Region: Water Reuse Addresses Sea Level Rise, Saltwater Intrusion, Land Subsidence, and Provides a Climate-Savvy Environmental and Economic Win-Win
  • Florida’s Tampa Bay Region: A SHARP Water Reuse Solution Protecting Essential Water Supplies from Sea Level Rise and Saltwater Intrusion, While Enhancing the Bay’s Ecosystems

WateReuse looks forward to working with the House and Senate in the coming weeks to finalize water infrastructure legislation that invests in critical water recycling infrastructure across the United States.

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