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News / Northwest

Five water projects in Western states to receive $242M from feds

Washington among the states the money will flow to

By LIA CHIEN, States Newsroom
Published: June 3, 2024, 3:54pm

WASHINGTON – The U.S. Department of the Interior and Bureau of Reclamation will send $242 million to five projects in Western states to improve water storage and clean drinking water supply.

The money, part of the president’s domestic infrastructure and manufacturing agenda and funded through the 2021 bipartisan infrastructure law, is expected to develop 1.6 million acre-feet of water storage, supporting 6.4 million people per year. Projects in Colorado, Arizona, Washington state and California will receive funding.

The Arkansas Valley Conduit, a major pipeline project in Colorado that has stalled for decades, is set to receive $90 million. Once completed, it will bring clean water to 50,000 people in 39 communities across the southeastern portion of the state, according to a release from the Bureau of Reclamation.

Finishing the project has been a long time coming. President John F. Kennedy signed a law in 1962 to authorize construction of the pipeline, but work on the project has stalled over the past six decades due to lack of funding.

This year’s spending comes after almost $250 million in previous appropriations from the infrastructure law and other laws. The project overall is estimated to cost over $600 million, according to Colorado Public Radio.

Sen. John Hickenlooper, a Democrat from Colorado, said he is excited to see the project move along.

“We broke ground on the Arkansas Valley Conduit to finally deliver clean drinking water to Southeast Colorado. Now, more Bipartisan Infrastructure Law investments like this one will speed up the timeline,” Hickenlooper said in a written statement Friday.

Washington state Cle Elum Pool Raise Project will receive $1 million to increase water capacity an additional 14,600 acre-feet. Cle Elum Lake is on the Cle Elum River, a tributary of the Yakima River that provides essential, high quality drinking water to the city of Cle Elum.

A feasibility study to address water storage solutions in Arizona’s Horseshoe and Bartlett reservoirs is also receiving $8.5 million. The reservoirs provide drinking water to the greater Phoenix area. Over many years, sediment build-up in the Horseshoe Reservoir has reduced water storage capacity.

Climate change affects water supply

Investments in conservation projects like these will also help provide water storage and safe drinking water as Western states feel the effects of climate change, like drought, more frequently, according to the Center for Climate and Energy Solutions, a research and advocacy group.

Rep. Raúl Grijalva, a Democrat from Arizona and the ranking member of the House Natural Resources Committee, said water infrastructure projects like these are critical as the West faces climate change.

Grijalva credited the bipartisan infrastructure law and Democrats’ 2022 energy, taxes and health policy law known as the Inflation Reduction Act with helping to boost federal spending on Western water projects.

“The more than $15 billion for western water projects and programs that Democrats passed in the Inflation Reduction Act and the Infrastructure Law is a gamechanger in our fight to secure clean drinking water, build our resilience to climate change, and restore critical rivers and watersheds,” said Grijalva in a statement.

Grijalva added that more investments are needed, especially to protect the most vulnerable populations from the effects of water shortages.

“While these investments will deliver much-needed relief to communities in Arizona and all over the West, much more must be done, especially for those underserved and Indigenous communities that are being disproportionately impacted by the climate crisis and are too often left behind,” he said.

Southwestern states, including Arizona, are expected to face more intense droughts as climate change intensifies, according to the Center for Climate and Energy Solutions. In the summer of 2021, drought conditions across the West were at their highest levels since 2000, according to the Bureau of Reclamation. Drought conditions worsened in 2022.

Washington state officials declared a drought emergency this April as they expect high temperatures and water shortages this summer.

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