President Joe Biden’s recent signing of a $1.2 trillion bipartisan infrastructure bill will likely have significant impacts on the Colorado River and impending drought in the Western U.S. – during the next 5 years, $8.3 billion is allocated for the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation (Reclamation) for western water infrastructure.
But what does that mean for CAP?
Here’s a breakdown:
Drought Contingency Plan/Reclamation funding
The bill includes $250 million from 2022-26 for Reclamation to implement the Lower Colorado River Basin Drought Contingency Plan (DCP), signed in 2019, as well as $50 million for the Upper Basin DCP.
Under the DCP, the Secretary of the Interior is obligated to create or conserve 100,000 acre-feet or more per year of Colorado River water. The bill requires Reclamation to use these funds in the Lower Basin to establish or conserve recurring Colorado River water that contributes to supplies in Lake Mead and other reservoirs, or to improve the long-term efficiency of operations in the Lower Colorado River Basin. See more information in the bill under section 40901.
The bill provides $1 billion for water recycling and reuse projects, of which $450 million is for a competitive grant program for large-scale water recycling and reuse programs. Programs that could benefit from these funds include the Metropolitan Water Conservation District (MWD) of Southern California’s Regional Recycled Water Project (RRWP). In June, the CAWCD Board voted to contribute $5 million related to environmental planning phase services for permitting and preliminary design of the RRWP.
Verde River Sediment Mitigation Project
The bill authorizes the Secretary of the Interior to carry out a feasibility study for the Verde River Sediment Mitigation Project. See the related Bartlett Dam Modification Feasibility Study presentation from the November CAWCD Board meeting. The Central Arizona Groundwater Replenishment District is seeking to partner with SRP and 20 other entities (the local cost-share partners) in the Phoenix Active Management Area (AMA) on a cost-share agreement to partially fund the feasibility study that will evaluate the two Bartlett Dam modification options and assess whether it would be feasible to enlarge Bartlett Reservoir to create additional storage capacity.
Other Western water-related provisions
The bipartisan infrastructure package also includes:
- $3.2 billion for aging infrastructure, of which $100 million is for transferred works that have suffered critical failure, and $100 million for dam rehabilitation reconstruction or replacement;
- $1.15 billion for water storage, groundwater storage and conveyance projects, of which $100 million is for small water storage;
- $1 billion for rural water projects;
- $250 million for desalination projects;
- $500 million for dam safety projects;
- $400 million for WaterSMART water and energy efficiency grants, of which $100 million is for natural infrastructure projects;
- $100 million for the Cooperative Water Management Program;
- $250 million for Aquatic Ecosystem Restoration Program;
- $100 million for multi-benefit watershed projects;
- $50 million for Colorado River fish species recovery programs;
- $2.5 billion for tribal water rights settlements.