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WaterSMART - Sustain and Manage America's Resources For Tomorrow

Contact: Dan DuBray, 202-513-0574

The American West is now the fastest growing region in the United States and faces serious water challenges. Adequate and safe water supplies are fundamental to the health, economy, security and ecology of the country. To achieve sustainable water management and maintain economic productivity in the western United States, aggressive action is required to address current and future water shortages; degraded water quality; increased demands for water from growing populations and energy needs; amplified recognition of environmental water requirements; and the potential for decreased water supply availability due to drought and climate change.

Federal leadership is critical to widespread acceptance and implementation of sustainable water development and management. Secretarial Order 3297, issued in February 2010, established the Department’s WaterSMART (Sustain and Manage America’s Resources for Tomorrow) Program to stretch and secure water supplies for future generations, coordinate across agencies, integrate energy and water policies, and ensure the availability of sound science and information to support decisions on sustainable water supplies. The 2015 Reclamation budget includes $52.1 million for water sustainability efforts through competitive cost-share grants for water and energy management improvement projects, basin-wide efforts to evaluate and address the impacts of climate change, funding of water reuse and recycling projects through the Title XVI Water Reclamation and Reuse Program, the establishment and expansion of collaborative watershed groups, and smaller-scale water conservation improvements and planning efforts through the Water Conservation Field Services Program. Together, these programs form an important part of Reclamation’s implementation of the SECURE Water Act (Subtitle F of Title IX of P.L. 111-11, the Omnibus Public Land Management Act of 2009). Starting in FY 2015 WaterSMART will also include new activities to identify resilient infrastructure investments and a comprehensive new approach to drought planning and implementation actions that address water shortages.

Reclamation will implement the $52.1 million requested in the President’s budget as follows:

WaterSMART Program
($ millions)

  2015 Budget Request
WaterSMART Grants

$19.0

Basin Studies $3.9
Title XVI Projects $21.5
Cooperative Watershed Management $0.3
Drought Response $1.5
Resilient Infrastructure Program $1.5
Water Conservation Field Services Program $4.5
Total $52.1

Within this total, $19 million is requested for WaterSMART Grants. Funding is used primarily to carry out water and energy efficiency improvements, including projects that save water, increase energy efficiency and the use of renewable energy in water management, address endangered species and other environmental issues, and facilitate transfers to new uses. On-the-ground projects may also include implementation of climate adaptation strategies identified in a completed Basin Study. Other projects may result in water delivery improvements that also facilitate future on-farm improvements that can be carried out with the assistance of the Natural Resources Conservation Service to accomplish coordinated water conservation improvements. With the funding requested in FY 2015, Reclamation will fund new WaterSMART Grants which generally will be completed within 2 to 3 years from the date of funding to encourage near-term impacts on water savings. With leveraged WaterSMART Grants, Reclamation will take an important step towards increasing water and energy sustainability on a West-Wide basis. Reclamation has requested $3.9 million in funding under the Basin Study program in FY 2015. The Basin Study Program includes three complementary activities: (1) Landscape Conservation Cooperatives (LCCs); (2) West-Wide Climate Risk Assessments; and (3) Basin Studies. Reclamation and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service are co-leading the effort to implement the Desert and Southern Rockies LCCs in the Southwestern United States, including the Colorado River Basin and the Rio Grande Basin. The LCCs support the implementation of Secretarial Order 3289 through the Department’s integrated plan for addressing climate change through cooperative landscape conservation. West-Wide Climate Risk Assessments develop baseline projections of risks and impacts to water supplies across the eight major river basins identified in the SECURE Water Act. Through Basin Studies, Reclamation partners with basin stakeholders to comprehensively assess current and potential water supply imbalances in river basins and impacts from climate change, and to identify mitigation and adaptation strategies to address those potential impacts. Such efforts are critical in dealing with the impacts of climate change coupled with record droughts and population increases, and are a primary activity for implementing the authorities within the SECURE Water Act.

Reclamation has requested $21.5 million to fund the Title XVI Water Reclamation and Reuse Program in FY 2015. Title XVI projects reclaim and reuse wastewaters and naturally impaired ground and surface water in the 17 Western States and Hawaii. Under the Title XVI Program, project sponsors may receive Federal funding on a cost-shared basis for planning and pre-construction activities and construction of specific, congressionally authorized water recycling projects. Title XVI projects have a huge potential to stretch water supplies using both time-tested methodologies and piloting new concepts. Federal investments in Title XVI projects, including all projects funded since 1992, made available an estimated 385,999 acre-feet of water in 2013, an increase of about 90,000 acre-feet over the previous year.

The ongoing Water Conservation Field Services Program (WCFSP), which includes funding for smaller-scale water conservation improvements and planning efforts, is also included as part of the WaterSMART Program. Reclamation has requested $4.5 million in 2015 for the WCFS Program, including cost-shared financial assistance as well as technical assistance from Reclamation staff.

Reclamation has requested $250,000, to continue implementation of the Cooperative Watershed Management Program in FY 2015. In 2015, the Department will provide financial assistance to establish and expand collaborative watershed groups.

Reclamation has requested $1.5 million in funding for Drought Response and Comprehensive Drought Plans to help avoid drought-related crises in the short term, while laying a foundation for climate resiliency in the long term. These efforts also directly support the National Drought Resilience Partnership, identified in the President’s Climate Action Plan – helping communities manage drought and develop long-term resilience strategies, by providing key climate change and drought information.

Reclamation has also requested $1.5 million for Resilient Infrastructure Investments to prepare for new climate extremes and support healthy and resilient watersheds by proactively maintaining and improving existing infrastructure for system reliability, safety and efficiency. Reclamation will continue to identify opportunities to integrate operational efficiencies that are more compatible with climate change adaptation goals, will utilize climate change adaptation information to prioritize infrastructure replacement, and will work with the U.S. Forest Service under the Western Watershed Enhancement Program to improve the health and resiliency of watersheds to reduce the potential for severe wildfire. Improving watershed functions and reducing the risk of uncharacteristically severe wildfire benefits Reclamation water supply, irrigation and hydroelectric customers.

The WaterSMART Program is directly aligned with the Department’s Priority Goal for Water Conservation. Reclamation’s goal is to further enable capability to increase available water supply for agricultural, municipal, industrial, and environmental uses in the western United States by 840,000 acre feet by the end of 2015 through Reclamation’s water conservation programs.

Relevant Links:

WaterSMART