Boxer, Feinstein, Napolitano, DeFazio Introduce "W21: Water in the 21st Century" Legislation

Washington, D.C. - U.S. Senator Barbara Boxer (D-CA), U.S. Senator Dianne Feinstein (D-CA), U.S. Representative Grace Napolitano (D-CA) and U.S. Representative Peter DeFazio (D-OR) today introduced “W21: Water in the 21st Century,” legislation that would help communities nationwide better prepare for the future by providing new incentives and investments to help residents, businesses and local water agencies to conserve, recycle and manage limited water supplies.

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. 

“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.” 

“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.” 

“The Water in the 21st Century Act will help our entire state address ongoing drought cycles by providing funds and support to our local water agencies and residents for water use efficiency, water conservation, desalination, and water recycling projects,” Representative Napolitano said. “I am proud to sponsor this bill in the House and ask my colleagues to join us to develop a reliable water supply for the 21st Century.” 

“Water in the 21st Century will give our communities essential tools to help residents, businesses, and local officials deal with limited water supplies both now and in the future,” Representative DeFazio said. “I am happy to join Senator Boxer and Representative Napolitano on this common sense approach on critical water shortage issues and will urge the Natural Resources Committee to take up this legislation when Congress returns.”  

The legislation includes a number of important provisions that would help communities in California, Oregon 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. 

Water Recycling, Storage, and Integrated Water Management
     • 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.
          o $250 million over five years for secured loans.
          o $150 million for integrated regional water management, reclamation, and recycling projects grants. Innovation through

Research, Data, and Technology
     • 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.  

Drought Preparedness
     • 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.  

The legislation is supported by the Western Recycled Water Coalition, WaterNow, the Clean Water Construction Coalition, the Northern California Water Association, the North Bay Water Reuse Authority and the WateReuse Association. For the text of the legislation, click here.  

Senator Feinstein and Senator Boxer have also introduced the California Emergency Drought Relief Act of 2014, an emergency measure that would provide immediate relief to communities, particularly in the Central Valley, that are suffering from the historic drought impacting California and other Western states. 

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