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Statement of Kira L Finkler, Deputy Commissioner for External and Intergovernmental Affairs
Bureau of Reclamation
U.S. Department of the Interior
Before the
Energy and Natural Resources Committee
Subcommittee on Water and Power
U.S. Senate
on
HR 1120
Central Texas Water Recycling Act of 2009

April 27, 2010

Madam Chairwoman and Members of the Subcommittee, I am Kira Finkler, Deputy Commissioner for External and Intergovernmental Affairs at the Bureau of Reclamation (Reclamation). I am pleased provide the views of the Department of the Interior (Department) on H.R. 1120, the Central Texas Water Recycling Act of 2009. For reasons I will discuss below, the Administration cannot support the bill.

H.R. 1120 would amend the Reclamation Wastewater and Groundwater Study and Facilities Act (Public Law 102-575, 43 U.S.C. 390h et seq.), commonly called Title XVI, to authorize the Secretary of the Interior to participate in the design, planning, and construction of permanent facilities needed to reclaim and reuse water in McLennan County. The project is being implemented by the City of Waco.

The City of Waco (City) has projected a 12,000 acre-foot per year water deficit in 2060. The Brazos River Basin Regional Water Group, which includes the City of Waco and which reports water management recommendations to the State of Texas, recommended water reuse as an important management strategy in meeting this need. The City has identified numerous customers in the area with a total expected reuse demand of 3.0 million gallons per day. The City proposes to construct infrastructure to convey treated effluent to these customers.

The City submitted Title XVI feasibility materials to Reclamation on September 3, 2009, and an agency review team collaborated with the City on revising the report to meet Reclamation's Title XVI feasibility report requirements. Reclamation's team completed its review of the revised feasibility report and compared it to the criteria established in P.L. 102-575, as amended and Reclamation's Directives and Standards. Based on this review, the team recommended that the Great Plains Regional Director and the Policy and Administration Director concur that the feasibility report is complete. The Regional Director and Director of Policy and Administration provided concurrence on October 8 and October 13, 2009, respectively.

H.R. 1120 would authorize the project under Title XVI for Federal funding not to exceed 25 percent of the total project cost or $20 million, whichever is less.

While the Department supports efforts to increase local water supplies and increase recycled water use, this project would compete with other Reclamation programs for funding, including other Title XVI projects currently under construction. In general, the Department supports the Title XVI Reclamation and Reuse program. The 2011 budget proposal includes funding for the Department's WaterSMART Program, and Title XVI is an important element of that program. Specifically, the 2011 budget proposal includes $29 million for the Title XVI program, a 113% increase over the 2010 enacted level.

As part of this total, the Department is requesting $20 million for Title XVI projects to be selected using criteria to identify activities most closely aligned with Title XVI statutory and program goals. On March 15, 2010, Reclamation posted an announcement inviting comment on draft funding criteria for Title XVI projects. After these criteria are finalized with comments received up through April 16, Reclamation will review and rank Title XVI project proposals received based on those criteria subject to appropriations in fiscal year 2011.

Separately, in July of 2009, the Department announced the allocation of approximately $135 million in grants for specific authorized Title XVI projects using funds from the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, or ARRA. We recognize that water reuse is an essential tool in stretching the limited water supplies in the West, and I believe the FY 2011 Budget request on top of the ARRA funding has demonstrated the emphasis placed by this Administration on this Program. However, given that there are 53 already authorized Title XVI projects and numerous competing mission priorities and demands on Reclamation's budget, the Department cannot support the authorization of new Title XVI projects or extensions of authorized existing cost ceilings at this time.

Reclamation will, however, continue to work with project proponents to evaluate the completeness of feasibility studies of their projects.

Madam Chairwoman, this concludes my testimony. Thank you for the opportunity to comment on H.R. 1120. I would be pleased to answer any questions at this time.