WaterSMART and Other Programs
Water is our most precious natural resource and is increasingly stressed by the demands our society places on it. Adequate water supplies are an essential element in human survival, ecosystem health, energy production and economic sustainability. Significant climate change-related impacts on water supplies are well documented in scientific literature and scientists are forecasting changes in hydrologic cycles.
Congress recognized these issues with the passage of the SECURE Water Act, a law that authorizes federal water and science agencies to work together with state and local water managers to plan for climate change and other threats to our water supplies, and take action to secure our water resources for the communities, economies, and the ecosystems they support.
To implement the SECURE Water Act, and ensure that the Department of the Interior is positioned to meet these challenges, Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar established the WaterSMART (Sustain and Manage America’s Resources for Tomorrow) program in 2010.
WaterSMART allows all bureaus of the department to work with states, tribes, local governments, water agencies and non-governmental organizations to pursue a sustainable water supply for the nation by establishing a framework to provide federal assistance on the efficient use of water, integrating water and energy policies to support the sustainable use of all natural resources, and coordinating the water conservation activities of the various department offices.
Reclamation plays a key role in the WaterSMART program as the department’s main water management agency. Focused on improving water conservation and helping water and resource managers make wise decisions about water use, Reclamation’s portion of the WaterSMART program is achieved through administration of grants, scientific studies, technical assistance and scientific expertise.
WaterSMART provides funding, combined with grant recipient cost-share funds that support the following types of grants awarded by the Region in 2013: Water and Energy Efficiency Grants, Cooperative Watershed Management Program Grants, and Title XVI Program Water Reclamation and Reuse Projects. (Title XVI is also known as the Reclamation Wastewater and Groundwater Study and Facilities Act of 1992.)
In Fiscal Year 2013, the Region awarded 15 water conservation and efficiency grants through WaterSMART and other programs that totaled $6.9 million. Including local cost-share contributions, more than $24.3 million in water management improvement projects will be implemented in the next 24 months. The projects will result in an estimated 24,568 acre-feet annually conserved and 40,000 AF annually better managed. The awards include seven WaterSMART Water and Energy Efficiency Grants, six CALFED Water Use Efficiency Grants, and two Bay-Delta Agricultural Water Conservation and Efficiency Grants.
Grant recipients were diverse, ranging from large water agencies to nonprofit entities, to agricultural districts, to non-federal contractors. Geographically, recipients spanned the Region. Examples of projects awarded grants in 2013 include a tail-water recapture and reuse project, a residential water meter installation project, a residential high efficiency clothes washer incentive program, canal linings, canal automation, and on-farm irrigation efficiency improvements.
In addition, administratively, the Region completed and closed-out 20 grant projects that conserved and better managed an estimated 12,208 acre-feet and 263,170 AF of water per year, respectively.
The following are two examples of these completed projects:
- The San Luis & Delta Mendota Water Authority in Los Banos, Calif. received a $100,000 CALFED Water Use Efficiency Grant for the flow measurement of O’Neill Pump/Generating Plant, Phase 1 Project. The project involved installation of water flow measurement equipment at the O’Neill Plant to ensure real time information is available to water operators for delivery of water in the San Luis Canal to the San Luis Contractors for storage in the San Luis Reservoir. In addition, the data will provide the amount of water available for delivery to the lower Delta-Mendota Canal and Mendota Pool Contractors. About one million acre-feet of water is delivered annually off the Delta-Mendota Canal downstream to the O’Neill Pump/Generating Plant Intake channel. Implementation of this project increased efficiency by reducing losses of 2-5 percent, equating to 20,000 to 50,000 acre-feet of water available for beneficial uses.
- Tulare Irrigation District in Tulare, Calif., received a $300,000 WaterSMART Water and Energy Efficiency Grant for the Plum Basin Project, Phases II and III. With this funding, the district constructed two additional multi-use basins with a storage capacity of 491 acre-feet, thereby expanding upon the Phase 1 basin. The construction of the project conserved up to 4,500 acre-feet annually and increased the groundwater banking and water marketing capabilities by approximately 1,800 acre-feet per year. Additionally, the project could aide in renewable energy production at the existing hydroelectric facility and provide favorable habitat for endangered and other wildlife.
Water Management Plans
The Central Valley Project Improvement Act requires certain contractors to prepare water management plans according to specific criteria and best management practices. In 2013, the Region reviewed and approved 16 five-year water conservation plans. In addition, the Region is working closely with the California Department of Water Resources and Reclamation contractors to ensure contractor compliance with new state water conservation mandates and planning requirements.
Under the WaterSMART program, the Region modified three existing agreements to provide for the construction of three reuse/reclamation projects. The sponsors will provide at least 75 percent of construction costs. The Region’s 2013 projects include locations in the California counties of Marin, Monterey, Napa, Sacramento, Santa Clara and Sonoma.
The agreements were authorized under the Title XVI Program through which projects are constructed and owned by non-federal sponsors, uniting local communities with the federal government to provide change, growth, and a future for clean water and environmental stewardship in a broad range of areas.
Primary goals are improved water-use efficiency, creation of additional water supplies, increased drought resistance of existing supplies, and a reduction in the reliance on inter-basin water transfers. The reclaimed water may be used for a variety of purposes, including environmental restoration; fish and wildlife uses; groundwater recharge; and certain municipal, domestic, industrial, agricultural and power generation uses.
Reclamation’s role includes coordinating with non-federal project sponsors, providing advice on preparation of necessary reports, and reviewing the reports and submittals to determine whether the project meets the criteria of the Title XVI Program.
The following are examples of the construction projects:
- The Sonoma County Water Agency, as lead agency of the North Bay Water Reuse Authority, in Sonoma, Calif., received a WaterSMART grant of $4 million to continue design and construction of Phase 1 of the North Bay Water Reuse Program. The 5,457 acre-feet per year of recycled Phase 1 water will accomplish multiple objectives, including: Reduce reliance on local and imported surface and groundwater; reduce treated effluent releases to San Pablo Bay; provide recycled water for irrigation of high value crops, municipal irrigation, and restoration of wetlands; and improve in-stream flows for riparian habitat and fisheries recovery.
- San Jose, Calif., received a WaterSMART grant of $12 million to continue design and construction of the South Bay Water Recycling Program, a joint effort between the city, the Santa Clara Valley Water District, and other local water agencies. The program currently delivers an average of 10,000 AFY to more than 630 irrigation and industrial customers.
- The City of Watsonville, Calif., and the Pajaro Valley Water Management Agency were awarded $4 million for the Watsonville Area Water Recycling Project. The project reduces over-drafting of groundwater resources and subsequent seawater intrusion. It recycles 4,000 AFY of effluent from the city’s wastewater treatment plant and blends it with higher quality water to reduce salinity; the recycled water is used to irrigate high value food crops. The project is comprised of expanded facilities at the city’s wastewater treatment plant, a blending facility, and a distribution system for transporting the blended recycled water to agricultural users.
Workers construct a recycled water reservoir in Sonoma County
A crane prepares to connect a tank to pipes at the Santa Clara Water District’s Recycled Water Treatment Facility
A crew installs purple pipe to convey recycled water in San Jose, Calif.February 28, 2014