Padilla Cosponsors Bill to Combat Drought in California and Across the Western U.S.

The legislation would fund large-scale water recycling projects that would protect and bolster the water supply that tens of millions of Americans depend on

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Today, U.S. Senator Alex Padilla (D-Calif.) joined Senator Catherine Cortez Masto (D-Nev.), along with Senator Jacky Rosen (D-Nev.), in introducing the Large Scale Water Recycling and Drought Resiliency Investment Act to combat drought and protect the water supply of millions of Americans living in California and other western states, including Nevada and Arizona. The bill would create a grant program for large-scale water recycling projects in California and the other sixteen western states and would allow federal funding to be used for an increased range of activities to plan for and mitigate against impacts from drought. This legislation would help conserve water and improve resiliency across the state of California as the state continues to battle extreme drought conditions. California Governor Gavin Newsom’s regional drought state of emergency applies to 50 of the 58 California counties.

The Bureau of Reclamation’s existing Title XVI Water Reclamation and Reuse Program has invested millions of dollars to support California projects that reclaim and reuse water. Funded projects have proven to be cost-effective, job creators, and water savers. But the program isn’t built to support the large-scale projects the western United States is currently pursuing to combat drought conditions at the scale needed. This legislation would provide grant funding to help these large projects get off the ground. For example, the Metropolitan Water District of Southern California and the Southern Nevada Water Authority are pursuing a large-scale regional recycled water project that could produce enough water to cover 168,000 acres of land in one foot of water, enough to serve more than 500,000 households in Southern California and Nevada. This legislation would help fund this venture and prioritize the development of similar projects across California. 

“As California and western states face record drought conditions and extreme heat waves, we must prioritize innovative and sustainable solutions to ensure that our communities have the resources they need,” said Senator Padilla. “This critical legislation will help build more drought-proof water re-use and recycling projects that promote resiliency and create jobs while increasing California’s water supply. The climate crisis will only continue to intensify and prolong extreme weather events, threaten our ecosystems, and strain our water supply. That’s why we must pass this forward-looking legislation to get large-scale water recycling projects up and running to meet the water challenges of the 21st century.”

“Addressing the extreme drought conditions facing Nevada and all western states is a top priority, and I am determined to pass meaningful legislation to help us conserve water and promote responsible solutions to this ongoing crisis,” said Senator Cortez Masto. “My legislation would deliver much-needed support to large-scale water recycling projects being built in our region and help create reliable and resilient water supplies for Nevada. These water reuse and recycling programs combat drought, conserve water, create good-paying jobs, and offer us a sustainable, responsible path forward.”

“Water plays a critical role in sustaining life in Nevada, and we must take action to bolster our state’s water supply, ensuring access to this much-needed resource,” said Senator Rosen. “This legislation will help to preserve water in Nevada and across the western United States by establishing a competitive grant program for large-scale water recycling projects. By supporting these developments to promote water recycling, we can better prepare our state to deal with droughts and clean drinking water shortages in our communities. I will continue working with colleagues – including my fellow Nevada Senator Catherine Cortez Masto – to find innovative solutions to the challenges Nevadans face.”

“As we face the realities of a changing climate, hotter days and intensified drought, this new funding program will help transform how the Southwest gets its water. All of us across the West are ‘one’ when it comes to water, and we must work together through ‘One Water’ integrated approach to build our resilience to future challenges, including increasing local water supplies and investing in recycled water projects. Through innovative interstate partnerships, regional multi-benefit projects like our Regional Recycled Water Program will not only help Southern Californians, but could benefit all of California, Nevada, and the other states in the Colorado River basin,” said Adel Hagekhalil, General Manager for Metropolitan Water District of Southern California. 

“Valley Water applauds Senator Padilla for introducing this important legislation to help promote more water recycling throughout the West,” Valley Water Board Chair Tony Estremera said. “Climate change is expected to result in more frequent and severe droughts, so we must take proactive steps to ensure our communities have a reliable water supply. That is why we are expanding our recycled and purified water program in Santa Clara County. But we cannot do it alone. This bill will provide critical federal support for projects like ours that help create dependable, drought-resilient and locally-controlled water supplies.”

The Large Scale Water Recycling and Drought Resiliency Investment Act establishes a competitive grant program within the Department of the Interior (DOI) for large-scale water recycling projects and authorizes $750 million for the program through Fiscal Year 2027. This bill also expands eligibility under existing drought programs for qualified entities to receive federal financial assistance for drought planning and drought mitigation projects. 

Companion legislation has been introduced in the House of Representatives by Reps. Grace Napolitano (Calif.-32), Jared Huffman (Calif.-2), and Susie Lee (Nev.-3).

Bill text can be found here.