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Huffman Water Infrastructure Proposal Included in House Democrats’ Landmark Infrastructure Bill

The Future Western Water Infrastructure and Drought Resiliency Act reflects months of public input, will dramatically improve drought preparedness and water supply reliability

June 29, 2020

Washington, D.C. – This week, House Democrats will be voting on H.R. 2, the Moving Forward Act, a landmark bill including more than $1.5 trillion infrastructure investment that will create millions of jobs, take bold action on the climate crisis, and address disparities in urban, suburban, and rural communities across the country. Today, Representative Jared Huffman (CA-02) announced that H.R. 2 includes his FUTURE Western Water Infrastructure and Drought Resiliency Act, an ambitious water infrastructure proposal that is the culmination of months of public vetting and legislative development. 

As the Chair of the House Subcommittee on Water, Oceans, and Wildlife, Rep. Huffman launched a public engagement process earlier this year to engage the diverse perspectives, interests, and needs of those with a stake in the nation’s water resources, especially in the West. In January, Rep. Huffman released draft legislation, invited the public and policy experts to weigh in, and received hundreds of stakeholder comments and suggestions over the following weeks and months. That draft legislation received support from numerous environmental NGOs and water users and utilities, including from every major urban water supplier in the west, and the final legislation included in H.R. 2 this week reflects the results of the draft legislation’s broad public vetting.

“As our country has lurched from one crisis to the next this year, one thing that has become abundantly clear is the urgent need to build resilient systems that work for everyone. The FUTURE Western Water Infrastructure and Drought Resiliency Act takes the bold steps needed to develop more resilient water infrastructure, expand the use of modern water management tools and technologies, and assist disadvantaged areas in meeting their drinking water needs,” said Rep. Huffman. “After impressive public input, we have shaped a bill that will help us work together to improve drought preparedness and water supply reliability in a changing climate. Federal water policy does not need to be a zero-sum game: we can build on the best ideas from everyone to secure a better water future and a healthier, more resilient, more sustainable economy for everyone.”

Huffman’s bill provides approximately $3.5 billion for western water infrastructure and drought resiliency measures, including $750 million for sustainable, multi-benefit water storage projects including both aboveground and underground reservoirs; $500 million for water recycling and reuse projects; and $260 million for innovative water desalination projects. The legislation creates a new process to authorize major water storage projects owned or supported by the Department of the Interior, modeled on the process to authorize Army Corps of Engineers water projects through the Water Resources Development Act. 

The FUTURE Western Water Infrastructure and Drought Resiliency Act also invests in water technologies to improve water management and reduce energy and water waste, including by funding desalination research and an expanded water technologies “X-Prize,” and by promoting new technologies for snowpack measurement, bringing new stream gages online to improve downstream water planning, and deploying smart technologies to help manage and monitor water infrastructure.

Huffman’s proposal also includes measures to reverse the widespread fish and wildlife species decline across the west, including by creating incentives for farmers to provide waterbird habitat, expanding watershed health project funding, supporting wildlife refuges along the Pacific Flyway in California’s Central Valley, and improving drought planning to protect biodiversity and sustain commercially important fisheries.

The legislation also provides federal support for water education activities, collaborative water management, and training and professional development in the water sector. The FUTURE Western Water Infrastructure and Drought Resiliency Act includes within it several sustainable water infrastructure proposals developed at the Water, Oceans, and Wildlife Subcommittee, including:

  • Rep. Grace Napolitano’s Water Recycling Investment and Improvement Act to support a competitive grant program for water recycling projects.
  • Rep. Mike Levin’s Desalination Development Act to support a competitive grant program for water desalination projects.
  • Rep. T.J. Cox’s Disadvantaged Community Drinking Water Assistance Act to create a new Bureau of Reclamation grant program to provide drinking water for disadvantaged communities facing significant declines in drinking water quantity or quality.

The following groups and entities have expressed support for all or part of the FUTURE Western Water Infrastructure and Drought Resiliency Act or the draft legislation it is based on: Albuquerque Bernalillo County Water Utility AuthorityAmerican RiversAmerican Sportfishing AssociationAssociation of Fish and Wildlife AgenciesAurora WaterCalifornia Association of Sanitation AgenciesCentral Arizona ProjectCity and County of San Francisco Public Utilities CommissionCity of Escondido, CaliforniaCity of Folsom, CaliforniaCity of PhoenixCity of Roseville, CACoachella Valley Water DistrictColorado Springs UtilitiesColumbia Basin Development LeagueCongressional Sportsmen’s Foundation;  Contra Costa Water DistrictDenver WaterDucks UnlimitedEast Bay Municipal Water Utility DistrictEastern Municipal Water DistrictEnvironmental Defense FundFresno Metropolitan Flood Control DistrictFriant Water AuthorityHumboldt CountyLas Vegas Valley Water DistrictLeucadia Wastewater DistrictLos Angeles Department of Water and PowerNational Audubon SocietyNational Wildlife FederationOlivenhain Municipal Water DistrictOrange County Water DistrictPacific Forest TrustRincon del Diablo Municipal Water DistrictSalt Lake City Public UtilitiesSalt River ProjectSan Diego County Water AuthoritySan Francisco Public Utilities CommissionSan Joaquin River Exchange Contractors Water AuthoritySan Juan Water DistrictSanta Clara Valley Water DistrictSanta Fe Irrigation DistrictSanta Margarita Water DistrictSeattle Public UtilitiesSonoma WaterSouth Valley Water AssociationSouthern Nevada Water AuthorityThe Metropolitan Water District of Southern CaliforniaTheodore Roosevelt Conservation PartnershipTrout UnlimitedTruckee Meadows Water AuthorityVallecitos Water District, City of Escondido;Water Replenishment District of Southern CaliforniaWateReuseWaterNow Alliancethe Western Recycled Water Coalition.

A section by section summary of the FUTURE Western Water and Drought Resiliency Act can be found here.  

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