Padilla Delivers Keynote Address at Association of California Water Agencies Conference

Padilla discusses major federal investments to address drought at Association of California Water Agencies conference

WASHINGTON, D.C. — As California faces an unprecedented and historic drought, U.S. Senator Alex Padilla (D-Calif.), a member of the Environment and Public Works Committee, delivered the keynote address today at the Association of California Water Agencies (ACWA) conference. During his address, Padilla spoke about the importance of implementing new and innovative strategies for water conservation and drought resilience to better meet the realities of our climate and water needs. He also highlighted his legislative priorities and the historic investments he helped secure in the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law to support water recycling, stormwater reuse, groundwater recharge, and desalination.

Senator Padilla is a staunch advocate for water resiliency and sustainability throughout California and across the country. During a statewide infrastructure listening tour, Padilla met with various local and state leaders to discuss the critical water infrastructure investments needed in California. Padilla introduced the Water Efficiency, Conservation, and Sustainability Act to incentivize water-efficiency upgrades and establish programs to identify and repair leaks, especially in areas experiencing severe drought. He also introduced the Water Reuse and Resiliency Act with Senator Feinstein to authorize $1 billion over five years for the EPA’s Pilot Program for Alternative Water Source Projects grants program. In the last few months, Padilla has also announced over $600 million for clean water infrastructure and $870 million in funding for California water projects.

The Association of California Water Agencies conference is the largest statewide coalition of public water agencies in the country. Their more than 460 public agency members collectively are responsible for 90 percent of the water delivered to cities, farms and businesses in California.

Remarks, as prepared for delivery, are below:

Hello, and thank you, President Tobin.

I’m excited to join you here today, and I want to thank the members of ACWA for all of your hard work as our state faces so many challenges—and opportunities—when it comes to water.

For decades, Californians have pioneered new ways to store, transport, and save water—from the engineering marvels of the Central Valley and State Water Projects; to the Colorado River Aqueduct and Diamond Valley Lake; to cutting edge desalination and water recycling technologies.

These innovations transformed our state into the fifth largest economy in the world.

While California is blessed with many natural advantages, it is our water infrastructure that fuels some of the most fertile agricultural land and the most vibrant communities in the world.

But I think we can all acknowledge that what has worked in the past is simply no longer sufficient to meet the challenges we currently we face.

In the past decade, we’ve seen the speed and severity of increasingly extreme weather outrun our tools to manage the limited water we still have.

Right now, the Western United States is experiencing the worst drought in more than 1,000 years.

California just recorded its driest first five months on record, ever.

This means dramatically reduced snow pack. Empty reservoirs. Heavily depleted aquifers.

And a perfect storm for dangerous wildfires.

While we all want to “save more water from the wet years for the dry years,” we need to seriously grapple with whether we’ll truly have any wet years in the near future.

We can no longer depend on plans and solutions designed and built for a different climate.

That climate simply no longer exists.

As California’s U.S. Senator, I’m working to support new and innovative strategies for water conservation and drought resilience.

We must focus on water reuse, reclamation, recycling, and efficiency.

To create dual-use systems that don’t rely on rainfall and snowpack that we can no longer count on.

I believe these solutions can draw broad regional and bipartisan support.

Just look at the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law, where we secured 8 billion dollars for western water infrastructure.

That includes a new grant program for large-scale water recycling projects in California and other western states.

Water recycling will help transform our water use in the West, especially in urban areas.

We’ve already seen successful regional approaches pioneered in San Diego, Orange County, Monterey, and Calabasas.

The Bipartisan Infrastructure Law also includes a provision I wrote to make stormwater reuse and groundwater recharge projects eligible for more federal funding.

And this is just the beginning. 

I visited the Central Valley last summer to meet with local leaders and begin diving into the challenges of supplying clean water.

I drew on those conversations to secure hundreds of millions of dollars in the federal budget for California’s water infrastructure.

Those projects range from groundwater restoration in the San Joaquin Valley to regional water reuse in Ventura County to sustainable desalination in Orange County.

I will keep working to secure as much funding as possible for California’s drought resiliency.

I’m also working on creative ways to save water. 

For example, I’m leading a bill to fix leaky pipes—which is the single most cost-effective tool for water conservation in urban areas.

We must use all the tools we have to make sure that everyone has the water they need.

At the same time, we can’t ignore the devastating economic, environmental, and health impacts of prolonged drought.

In May, I was proud to testify to the Energy and Natural Resources Committee on behalf of my bill to enable the Bureau of Reclamation to address the ongoing public health and environmental crises at the Salton Sea.

This bill would authorize additional projects to improve wildlife habitat, recreation, and air and water quality at the Salton Sea.

And having led the creation of California’s earthquake early warning system during my time in the state senate, I can’t underestimate the catastrophic impact that a major earthquake could have on our Delta and Colorado River conveyance infrastructure. 

As we all know, when it comes to the next big earthquake in California, it’s not a matter of if, but when.

These are hard issues, and I want you all to know that I mean it when I say I am here to do the hard work.

So I look forward to rolling up my sleeves and working closely with all of you to address the difficult, complex, and politically-fraught challenges that we all need to confront if we’re going to be good stewards of California’s water, for our children and for future generations.

Thank you for having me today.