Padilla, Levin Introduce Bicameral Legislation to Incentivize Water Conservation

WASHINGTON, D.C. — Today, U.S. Senator Alex Padilla (D-Calif.), Chair of the Environment and Public Works Subcommittee on Fisheries, Water, and Wildlife, and Representative Mike Levin (D-Calif.-49) introduced the Water Efficiency, Conservation, and Sustainability Act of 2023, bicameral legislation that would authorize $550 million for states, municipalities, water systems, and Tribal nations to implement water-efficiency upgrades and establish programs to repair leaks, especially in areas experiencing severe drought and in low-income communities. 

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) estimates that the installation of water-efficient fixtures and appliances can reduce water use by 20 percent, and new research has shown that leak-reduction in water systems is the most cost-effective urban water management tool. Yet, federal spending on energy efficiency and renewable energy has outpaced spending on water efficiency and reuse by approximately 80 to 1 since 2000. Meanwhile, U.S. household leaks waste nearly 1 trillion gallons of water annually, and in California, 8 percent of water is still lost to leaks, underscoring the need for solutions that will incorporate efficiency and conservation into households and water systems.

“As the Western United States and much of the Southeast continue to experience significant droughts, investing in resilient water supplies is an increasingly urgent priority for communities facing rising water rates,” said Senator Padilla. “Water efficiency and conservation measures are fast and cost-effective solutions to ensure clean drinking water, to lower water bills, and to bolster a drought-resilient water supply. We must work to modernize our water infrastructure and make it more efficient — we all have a stake in this fight.”

“The West has been facing historic droughts, and we must invest in resilient water supplies in order to improve water use efficiency and protect access to clean drinking water as we continue to face the worsening impacts of climate change. By increasing efficiency and reducing water loss, we can bolster supply and save consumers money. I am grateful to Senator Padilla for his partnership on this critical legislation that builds on ongoing state and local efforts to upgrade aging infrastructure and build a more resilient water system across the West,” said Representative Levin.

“With reliable, affordable water supplies increasingly at risk because of droughts, population growth, and aging infrastructure, there is an urgent need for the federal government to increase its investment in water efficiency and conservation,” said Ron Burke, CEO of the Alliance for Water Efficiency. “Water efficiency and conservation are typically the fastest and least expensive ways to save water while also fighting climate change and lowering water bills. These problems are not limited to the west. States across the country are currently impacted by drought, and the cost to deliver water is rising rapidly in most communities compared to other consumer expenses; climate change and population growth will only exacerbate these problems.”

“Our water supplies are increasingly stressed by climate change and every drop saved is a drop we need. This bill authorizes funding to repair leaky pipes and help consumers upgrade to water efficient appliances. These new EPA programs will save water and create jobs. Now is the time to address the needless loss of water,” said Adel Hagekhalil, General Manager of the Metropolitan Water District of Southern California.

“This bill offers voluntary incentives for individuals and communities to use water more efficiently, while ensuring that disadvantaged communities and households share in these benefits,” said Ed Osann, Senior Policy Analyst at the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC). “As the impacts of climate change on drinking water supplies become even more severe, the water-saving measures offered by this bill become even more necessary.”

“The Water Efficiency, Conservation, and Sustainability Act of 2023 recognizes the critical role of water efficiency in ensuring clean and affordable drinking water for our communities,” said Olga Morales-Pate, CEO of Rural Community Assistance Partnership. “Drinking water treatment is an expensive undertaking, particularly for rural communities with a relatively small base of customers to finance treatment operations. Access to water is also a major challenge, as drought conditions persist across broad swaths of the United States. The water efficiency investments in this legislation will help us build a more resilient future by mitigating water waste.”

The Water Efficiency, Conservation, and Sustainability Act of 2023 would establish three new EPA grant programs, providing a suite of options to address losses in public water systems and improve water efficiency. The programs include the:

Water Efficiency and Conservation Grant Program 

  • Authorizes $50 million per year for grants to states, municipalities, and water systems to carry out water efficiency programs for purchase, installation, or use of efficient fixtures, appliances, and landscaping.
  • Directs 50 percent of grants to entities that experienced drought conditions designated as D2 (severe drought), or were under a Governor-declared drought emergency, within 3 years preceding grant award.
  • Requires at least 40 percent of funds to go towards low-income households and disadvantaged communities, aligned with President Biden’s Justice40 initiative.

Sustainable Water Loss Control Program:

  • Authorizes $40 million per year for grants and technical assistance to public water systems to conduct an annual audit and establish a water loss control program. California already requires urban water suppliers to submit annual water loss audits as of 2017.

Assistance for Water Efficient Plumbing Code Adoption

  • Authorizes $20 million per year for grants to States, Tribal governments, and units of local government with authority to adopt plumbing codes that meet or exceed U.S. and international water use efficiency standards.

The Water Efficiency, Conservation, and Sustainability Act of 2023 is endorsed by the Alliance for Water Efficiency, Association of California Water Agencies (ACWA), the Association of Metropolitan Water Agencies (AMWA), the International Association of Plumbing & Mechanical Officials (IAPMO), the Metropolitan Water District of Southern California, the Natural Resources Defenses Council (NRDC), and the Rural Community Assistance Partnership (RCAP).

For a one pager of the bill, click here.

For full text of the bill, click here.

Senator Padilla has been a staunch advocate for water resiliency and access to clean and affordable drinking water throughout California and across the country. This year, Senator Padilla was named Chair of the Environment and Public Works Subcommittee on Fisheries, Water, and Wildlife, where he leads federal efforts to improve water resiliency and affordability efforts and oversees implementation of the Clean Water Act and Safe Drinking Water Act. This year, Padilla has announced over $600 million for clean water infrastructure and $870 million in funding for California water projects.


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