Western water projects in infrastructure deal

23rd August, 2021.      //   General Interest  // 

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WASHINGTON, D.C. (AP) – Funding for Western water projects is included in the $1 trillion infrastructure package adopted by the Senate, which farmers, water suppliers, and environmentalists say is desperately needed across the dry area.

The Senate approved legislation this week that aims to repair America’s roads and highways, boost broadband internet access, and upgrade water pipelines and public works systems. The bill’s fate in the House is still up in the air.

The government funds would come at a time when the West is suffering from a decades-long drought that is putting a strain on water resources.

A look at how the $8.3 billion set aside for water projects may assist in the coming years.

 

WATER STORAGE 

$1.15 billion would be allocated to upgrading water storage and transportation infrastructure, such as dams and canals, under the proposal. Groundwater storage projects that refill subterranean aquifers that aren’t susceptible to evaporation would also be supported. During dry years, Western states have over-pumped groundwater from wells for years, causing land to sink in areas of California.

California Sen. Dianne Feinstein, a Democrat whose office helped get water provisions in the bill, stated, “California has to do more to store and otherwise stretch the use of water in wet years in order to have enough to sustain through the dry years.”

WATER RECYCLING 

$1 billion would be allocated to initiatives that recycle wastewater for residential and industrial use in order to help extend current water resources. Many states and localities have or are establishing storm water runoff and wastewater recycling programs. The US Bureau of Reclamation, which oversees water, dams, and reservoirs in 17 Western states, would make the final decision on which projects to support.

DROUGHT PLAN 

The Colorado River, which feeds water to 40 million people and agriculture in the West, is being drained by a prolonged drought, searing temperatures, and climate change. Drought-relief initiatives, such as conservation and storage projects, would be funded with $300 million under the law to keep water levels in the river’s reservoirs stable and prevent further water cuts.

Next week, the river is anticipated to see its first-ever shortage declaration. Farmers in Arizona will be among those who will be affected next year.

DESALINATION

The law would allocate $250 million to studies and initiatives aimed at making seawater and brackish water useful for agricultural, industrial, and municipal purposes. Desalination facilities filter ocean water, extracting fresh water but leaving behind salty water that is frequently returned to the ocean. The technology is costly, but it is becoming a more important option to replenish water supply in drought-prone areas.

DAM SAFETY

Dams used for drinking water, agriculture, flood control, and electricity will get around $800 million in renovations and repairs. According to state and federal agencies, a large number of dams in the United States are in poor or unacceptable condition. Damage to the Oroville Dam in California triggered evacuation orders for over 200,000 people in 2017. California alone has 89 dams that are “in less than acceptable condition,” according to Feinstein’s office.

RURAL WATER 

Another $1 billion would go toward water projects in rural regions, where old water treatment plants and infrastructure are in desperate need of repair.

According to Dan Keppen, executive director of Family Farm Alliance, which advocates for farmers, ranchers, and irrigation districts, the water projects supported by the infrastructure plan may have a significant impact in the West.

“It’s sort of an all-of-the-above approach and that’s what’s needed,” he stated.