Jun 21, 2022 - Energy & Environment

Interior Department devotes nearly $26 million to water efficiency

Lake Mead at record low levels on May 10, 2022.
A plaque is displayed at the Nevada-Arizona state line on the Hoover Dam, with Lake Mead in the background, on May 10. Photo by Mario Tama/Getty Images.

The Department of the Interior on Tuesday announced nearly $26 million in funds for water and energy efficiency grants in Western states. The grants, paid for under the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law, will go toward conserving local water supplies amid the severe drought in the West.

Why it matters: Most of the West is mired in drought conditions, particularly the Southwest, where a megadrought dating back more than two decades is the most severe such event in at least 1,200 years.

Driving the news: The Interior Department has approved grants for 14 projects in eight Western states to help boost water use efficiency through such actions as upgrading water meters, installing gates to control water flow and more.

  • According to a statement, the department aims to save more than 12 billion gallons of water per year with these grants, which it says would be enough water to fill about 880,000 swimming pools.

Zoom in: The projects aim to reduce residential use and increase the efficiency of irrigation systems.

  • Two projects will also involve building solar power facilities to provide clean energy to water-related infrastructure.
  • "We are making a historic investment in drought resilience and water infrastructure to help more families, farmers and Tribes gain access to clean water," said Tanya Trujillo, Interior's assistant secretary for water and science, in a statement.

The big picture: The infrastructure bill allocated $8.3 billion for water infrastructure projects via the department's Bureau of Reclamation, and the new announcement comprises part of a total of $160 million in WaterSMART grants provided this year.

  • Recipients of the new grants include the Metropolitan Water District of Southern California, which will receive $2 million for a turf replacement program, and the city of Rialto, California, for a $2 million advanced metering implementation project.
  • Other grants will go to community projects in Utah, Texas and Colorado.

Context: As of June 16, 78% of the West was classified as being in drought conditions, with 44% of this region in the two most severe categories.

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