July 13, 2021

Cortez Masto Introduces Bill to Combat Drought in Nevada and Across the Western U.S.

Washington, D.C. – U.S. Senator Catherine Cortez Masto (D-Nev.) today introduced the Large Scale Water Recycling and Drought Resiliency Investment Act to combat drought and protect the water supply of millions of Americans living in Nevada and other western states, including California and Arizona. The bill would create a grant program for large-scale water recycling projects in Nevada and the other sixteen western states and would allow federal funding to be used for an increased range of activities to plan for and mitigate against impacts from drought. This legislation would help conserve water across Southern Nevada and contribute to Nevada’s water allocation at Lake Mead. Senators Jacky Rosen (D-Nev.) and Alex Padilla (D-Calif.) are original cosponsors of the legislation.

Existing federal programs to support wastewater reuse and recycling aren’t built to support the large-scale projects the western United States is currently pursuing to combat drought conditions. Cortez Masto’s legislation provides grant funding to help these large projects get off the ground.

“Addressing the extreme drought conditions facing Nevada and all western states is a top priority, and I am determined to pass meaningful legislation to help us conserve water and promote responsible solutions to this ongoing crisis,” said Senator Cortez Masto. “My legislation would deliver much-needed support to large-scale water recycling projects being built in our region and help create reliable and resilient water supplies for Nevada. These water reuse and recycling programs combat drought, conserve water, create good-paying jobs, and offer us a sustainable, responsible path forward.”

“Water plays a critical role in sustaining life in Nevada, and we must take action to bolster our state’s water supply, ensuring access to this much-needed resource,” said Senator Rosen. “This legislation will help to preserve water in Nevada and across the western United States by establishing a competitive grant program for large-scale water recycling projects. By supporting these developments to promote water recycling, we can better prepare our state to deal with droughts and clean drinking water shortages in our communities. I will continue working with colleagues – including my fellow Nevada Senator Catherine Cortez Masto – to find innovative solutions to the challenges Nevadans face.”

“As California and western states face record drought conditions and extreme heat waves, we must prioritize innovative and sustainable solutions to ensure that our communities have the resources they need,” said Senator Padilla. “This critical legislation will help build more drought-proof water re-use and recycling projects that promote resiliency and create jobs while increasing California’s water supply. The climate crisis will only continue to intensify and prolong extreme weather events, threaten our ecosystems, and strain our water supply. That’s why we must pass this forward-looking legislation to get large-scale water recycling projects up and running to meet the water challenges of the 21st century.”

“This federal legislation provides meaningful funding to help advance multi-state efforts to develop large-scale water recycling programs, which are critical to ensuring the long-term water supply security for tens of millions of Americans and improving our nation’s resiliency to drought and climate change conditions,” said John Entsminger, General Manager of the Southern Nevada Water Authority.

“As we face the realities of a changing climate, hotter days and intensified drought, this new funding program will help transform how the Southwest gets its water. All of us across the West are ‘one’ when it comes to water, and we must work together through ‘One Water’ integrated approach to build our resilience to future challenges, including increasing local water supplies and investing in recycled water projects. Through innovative interstate partnerships, regional multi-benefit projects like our Regional Recycled Water Program will not only help Southern Californians, but could benefit all of California, Nevada, and the other states in the Colorado River basin,” said Adel Hagekhalil, General Manager for Metropolitan Water District of Southern California

The Large Scale Water Recycling and Drought Resiliency Investment Act establishes a competitive grant program within the Department of the Interior (DOI) for large-scale water recycling projects and authorizes $750 million for the program through Fiscal Year 2027. This bill also expands eligibility under existing drought programs for qualified entities to receive federal financial assistance for drought planning and drought mitigation projects.

Currently, the Southern Nevada Water Authority and the Metropolitan Water District of Southern California are pursuing a large-scale regional recycled water project that could produce enough water to cover 168,000 acres of land in one foot of water, enough to serve more than 500,000 households in Southern California and Nevada. Cortez Masto’s bill would help fund this venture and prioritize the development of similar projects across the Western U.S.

Companion legislation has been introduced in the House of Representatives by Reps. Grace Napolitano (Calif.-32), Jared Huffman (Calif.-2), and Susie Lee (Nev.-3).

As Ranking Member of the Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources’ Subcommittee on Water and Power during the 116th Congress, Senator Cortez Masto was instrumental in passing the Colorado River Drought Contingency Plan Authorization Act.  The legislation was signed into law on April 16, 2019, requiring DOI to carry out the Colorado River Drought Contingency Plan signed by the seven Colorado River Basin states, including Nevada.