On a single day in September of 2023, the Biden-Harris administration took two major actions to boost the resilience of America’s water infrastructure.
On September 7, 2023, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) announced $19 million in new grant funding that will work to improve the climate resilience of the nation’s water infrastructure.
EPA’s Drinking Water System Infrastructure Resilience and Sustainability grant program will support drinking water systems in underserved, small and disadvantaged communities that are working to prepare for and reduce vulnerability to impacts from climate change ranging from extreme flooding to extreme drought.
“This summer communities have faced worsening climate impacts like extreme heat, flooding and intense storms, which have strained access to the clean drinking water we all deserve. These stressors pose a unique challenge to water systems in vulnerable communities,” said EPA Assistant Administrator for Water Radhika Fox.
“These grants will build upon the progress of the Bipartisan infrastructure Law by investing in critical water infrastructure that is resilient and can withstand the oftentimes destabilizing impacts of climate disasters,” she added.
Environmental justice and equity are a central part of EPA’s programs and this action advances progress under President Biden’s EJ Strong Initiative by investing in communities with a legacy of environmental injustice concerns.
Through this grant, EPA is seeking applications for projects that will benefit underserved, small, and disadvantaged communities.
This grant will be made available through a competitive Request for Application process.
Eligible applicants for this funding opportunity include public water systems, a water system located in an area governed by an Indian Tribe, eligible territories, and states on behalf of communities that are underserved and small or disadvantaged.
Eligible activities for funding include planning, design, construction, implementation, operation, or maintenance of a program or project that increases drinking water system resilience to natural hazards.
EPA’s Drinking Water System Infrastructure Resilience and Sustainability grant program was established under the America’s Water Infrastructure Act (AWIA) of 2018.
AWIA improves drinking water and water quality, deepens infrastructure investments, enhances public health and quality of life, increases jobs, and bolsters the economy.
That same day, the Biden-Harris administration took another major step towards improving the nation’s water infrastructure resilience, this time by increasing water recycling.
On September 7, 2023, the Department of the Interior announced the launch of a new large-scale water recycling program and made $180 million in initial funding from President Biden’s Bipartisan Infrastructure Law available for projects aimed at creating new water supplies that are less vulnerable to drought and climate change.
“Water is essential to everything we do: feeding families, growing crops, powering agricultural businesses, sustaining wildlife and safeguarding Tribal subsistence practices,” said Secretary Deb Haaland. “As the climate crisis drives severe drought conditions and historically low water allocations, it will take all of us working together to safeguard our communities. Through President Biden’s Investing in America agenda, we have historic new investments that are helping us to build a water supply that will sustain future generations.”
To date, the Bureau of Reclamation has invested $310 million from the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law for projects that advance water recycling and reuse. The new program will incentivize projects at a larger scale, with no cap on project size, and will play an important role in helping communities develop local, drought-resistant water supplies by turning unusable water sources into clean, reliable ones.
President Biden’s Investing in America agenda represents the largest investment in climate resilience in the nation’s history and is providing much-needed resources to enhance Western communities’ resilience to drought and climate change. Through the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law, Reclamation is investing a total of $8.3 billion over five years for water infrastructure projects, including water purification and reuse, water storage and conveyance, desalination and dam safety.
This announcement is one of the many historic investments the Biden-Harris administration is implementing as part of an all-of-government effort to make the Colorado River Basin and all the communities that rely on it more resilient to climate change, including the ongoing drought in the West.
“Through investments from President Biden’s Investing in America agenda, the Bureau of Reclamation is supporting work on multiple water recycling projects throughout the West. With this new program, we will be able to fund larger projects to grow local water supplies and serve more individuals,” said Reclamation Commissioner Camille Calimlim Touton. “As we work to address the drought crisis, its critical we are advancing innovative, forward-looking solutions that help communities develop local, drought resistant water supplies.”
The funding opportunity—part of Reclamation’s WaterSMART program–is aimed at water management agencies considering or planning larger water reuse projects as part of strategies to address projected water supply shortages. The initial investment of $180 million announced is part of a total $450 million for this new program.
In order to allow more flexibility in application, this opportunity has multiple application deadlines in 2023 and 2024. Projects that secure and stretch reliable water supplies for drought-stricken states and communities, provide water quality improvements, reduce impacts on projects owned by federal or state agencies, or provide benefits to disadvantaged, underserved and Tribal communities will be prioritized.
More information is available on the Grants.gov website by searching “R23AS00433.”
Apply for climate resilience funding before November 6, 2023.
WaterSMART funding has multiple deadlines in 2023 and 2024.