California Water Agencies Find Federal Funding Tap for Water Projects Is Dry

by Robin Yeager on 03/19/2010

in Water


Orange County water agencies, seeking millions for reclaimed water projects, were rebuffed by California Congressional reps during a show-and-tell in Washington D.C. this week. The agencies are seeking federal funding to expand efforts to increase the use of recycled water as our water supply diminishes due to drought, climate change and convoluted water policies resulting in mis-use.

At the briefing, elected officials lauded the water groups’ goals of conserving and recycling more than a billion gallons of California’s wastewater and recognized the job-creation that would accompany investments in water projects. Yet, they insisted that no federal funding for their projects will be available in the foreseeable future.

Rep. John Campbell, who reps a large part of OC, praised OC’s “toilet-to-tap” groundwater replenishment system while cautioning, “Your next challenge is to do it (expand the project) without any federal money.” It’s worth noting that House Republicans have imposed a one-year ban on all earmarks, including (eco-friendly, job-creating, problem-solving) activities like water projects. Forgive my skepticism about the intention behind this self-imposed ban, but it is an election year.

Rep. Grace Napolitano, who represents several LA County cities, is publicly on board the recycled water bandwagon. “This is a job producer,” she said. “We need to get the word out so we can fund projects that create jobs as well as benefit conservation.” Not exactly clear to whom the word needs to reach. Napolitano did note that the administration’s 2011 budget proposal includes increased funding for the Interior Dept.’s WaterSMART program, which is designed to move water sustainability programs forward.

Don’t know whether this is a plus or minus — Texas Rep. Eddie Bernice Johnson said her panel (House Water Resources and Environment Subcommittee) will unveil a water bill in April. As reported in this blog previously, California finally is on track to improve its byzantine water laws and policies. We’d hate to see federal legislation de-rail that process.

The March 18th briefing on Capitol Hill was sponsored by the Orange County Water District , Orange County’s Sanitation District, and the Water Replenishment District of Southern California.


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