Interior Department Announces Water Infrastructure Investments To Assist Drought-Impacted Western Communities

(Credit: Bureau of Reclamation)

by | Jan 18, 2022

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(Credit: Bureau of Reclamation)

Last Friday, the Department of the Interior announced water infrastructure investments targeted at increasing the water supply in drought-prone Western communities. The funds will be used to create and expand clean water sources through projects such as desalination and water reclamation and reuse.

The main financing vehicle is the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act, passed with bipartisan support last November. Of the $1 trillion outlaid in the bill, $55 billion is earmarked for clean drinking water, $50 billion for resilience and Western water storage, and $21 billion for the removal of pollution from water and soil. Of this, the Interior Department highlighted “$1 billion over five years for water reclamation and reuse projects, including $550 million for the Title XVI Water Reclamation and Reuse Program and $250 million for water desalination projects.” Supplemental financing will come from fiscal year 2022 appropriations. 

A major player in this effort is the Bureau of Reclamation, a federal agency within the Interior Department that has been developing sustainable water and power solutions for the West for more than 100 years.

Commenting on the investments, Bureau of Reclamation Commissioner Camille Calimlim Touton stated,

“Water reuse and desalination are important tools [in] building resiliency throughout the West, and these funding opportunities support water providers in developing new and clean sources of water to improve their water supply reliability for their communities. Through our traditional sources and now funding from the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law, we can bring more resources to support Western communities.”

Examples of projects the Bureau has funded in the past include membrane filtration reverse osmosis facilities, wastewater treatment plants and reclamation facilities, recycled water systems, groundwater recharge and recovery initiatives, water purification programs, and desalination projects. Technical improvements in the latter have enabled energy savings, driving market growth.

The Interior Department detailed the funding opportunities available to businesses in the water infrastructure sector, which include projects authorized by Congress in standalone legislation, projects eligible under the Water Infrastructure Improvements for the Nation Act, and a Desalination Construction Projects funding opportunity for ocean and brackish water desalination projects. The projects must be in the Western United States or U.S. territories. Applications for each funding opportunity are due at 4 p.m. Mountain Daylight Time on March 15, 2022. All three funding opportunities invite sponsors of eligible projects to apply for up to 25% of the costs of planning, design, and construction scheduled for the next three years.

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