The legislation would expand rebates and grants for water conservation and efficiency; support local investments in water recycling and improved groundwater management and storage; invest in research into water-saving technologies and desalination; and establish an open water data system. The measure would also help local communities take steps to become better prepared for drought.
“I am pleased to cosponsor the Water in the 21st Century act. It includes practical, effective programs for conservation, recycling, research and water projects that are important elements to help meet California’s water challenges,” Senator Feinstein said.“This bill complements the Emergency Drought Relief Act – which we are currently negotiating with the House – to help California and the West confront this and future droughts.”
“Anyone who knows California knows that we have forever fought about water and it’s time to change the story,” Senator Boxer said. “We’re doing just that with ‘W21: Water in the 21st Century,’ which will help us prepare for the future by conserving, recycling and better managing our precious water supplies.”
The legislation includes a number of important provisions that would help communities in California and across the country:
Efficiency and conservation
- Strengthens EPA’s WaterSense program, which promotes water conservation in products, buildings, and landscapes through information and rebates. The bill authorizes $50 million to administer the program and $700 million for rebates, through FY2019, and then funds them at FY2019 levels adjusted for inflation thereafter.
- Creates a new grant program within the Environmental Protection Agency for local water systems to conserve water, increase water efficiency or reuse water; modify or relocate existing water system infrastructure made or projected to be made inoperable by climate change impacts; preserve or improve water quality, and other projects.
- Leverages federal financing – through loan guarantees and matching grants – to help support projects on a regional scale, including water recycling, ground water management, water storage and water conveyance infrastructure.
- $250 million over five years for secured loans.
- $150 million for integrated regional water management, reclamation, and recycling projects grants.
- Establishes an open water data system at the Department of the Interior.
- Reauthorizes the Water Resources Research Act at $9 million a year through 2020.
- Reauthorizes the Water Desalination Act at $3 million a year through 2020.
- Directs the Secretary of the Army to review reservoir operations and assess whether there is a benefit in adjusting operations to take into account improved forecasting data.
- Establishes Drought Resilience Guidelines for state and local agencies through EPA in coordination with USDA, Commerce and Interior.
- Directs U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, in consultation with state and federal agencies, to prepare a salmon drought plan to address the impacts of drought on the salmon population.
Senators Feinstein and Boxer have also introduced the California Emergency Drought Relief Act of 2014, an emergency measure that would provide immediate relief to communities that are suffering from the historic drought impacting California and other Western states.