LOS ANGELES, California, May 20, 2015 (ENS) – The Obama Administration will invest nearly $50 million to improve water efficiency and conservation in California and 11 other western states squeezed by years of crippling drought, Secretary of the Interior Sally Jewell announced today.

Funded projects will replace thirsty grass with drought-tolerant plants, upgrade irrigation controls, line canals to prevent seepage, capture stormwater runoff, increase groundwater recharge and improve salmon habitat.

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Sign on the law of the California Public Employees’ Retirement System building in Sacramento, California (Photo by CalPERS)

“In a time of exceptional drought, it is absolutely critical that states and the federal government leverage our funding resources so that we can make each drop count,” said Secretary Jewell. “Being ‘water smart’ means working together to fund sustainable water initiatives that use the best available science to improve water conservation and help water resource managers identify strategies to narrow the gap between supply and demand.”

Jewell made the funding announcement at the Donald C. Tillman Water Reclamation Plant in Van Nuys, California, where millions of gallons of wastewater are purified each day.

She was joined by Chief Sustainability and Economic Development Officer of the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power Nancy Sutley, who headed the White House Council on Environmental Quality during President Barack Obama’s first term in office.

“The federal government’s support for critical water efficiency and reuse projects is most valuable especially during this historic drought in California,” said Sutley. “The investments will help cities like Los Angeles carry out our sustainability objectives, further build our local water supply and reduce our reliance on imported water. We look forward to all these important opportunities ahead of us.”

The funding to suppport 64 projects in 12 states will come from the Interior Department’s Bureau of Reclamation through the WaterSMART Program.

Reclamation Commissioner Estevan López said, “We commend the state of California for all the steps they have already taken to alleviate the impacts of the drought. We hope this federal funding for water reuse and efficiency will help us leverage scarce resources between the state and federal governments to bring much-needed relief for the people and environment of California.”

The Bureau of Reclamation is investing more than $24 million in grants for 50 water and energy efficiency projects in 12 western states. The agency will provide more than $23 million for seven water reclamation and reuse projects in California, and nearly $2 million for seven water reclamation and reuse feasibility studies in California and Texas.

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The Friant-Kern Canal near the city of Fresno, California. (Photo credit unknown)

Reclamation will contribute $1 million to several projects, including the largest funded project, which will be carried out by the City of Fresno, California. The Friant-Kern Pipeline Project will install 4.6 miles of 60-inch diameter pipe and a new turnout diversion structure, connecting the Friant-Kern Canal with Fresno’s Northeast Surface Water Treatment Facility at a cost of $17.85 million.

The new pipeline will allow Fresno to bypass 47 miles of lined and unlined open channel canals that are now used to deliver water to the Treatment Facility. The project will reduce seepage and is expected to result in annual water savings of 4,050 acre-feet. Conserved water will be delivered to the Treatment Facility, where it will be treated, then delivered to meet domestic, potable water demands in the City of Fresno.

The 50 projects announced today will be leveraged with at least 50 percent non-federal funding for a total of $133 million in improvements over the next two to three years.

For a complete description of the 50 projects, visit the WaterSMART Water and Energy Efficiency Grant website.

Seven projects in California will receive $23.2 million to reclaim and reuse municipal, industrial, domestic or agricultural wastewater and naturally impaired ground or surface waters.

The Bureau of Reclamation provides up to 25 percent of project costs. Project sponsors provide the remaining 75 percent.

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Drought-tolerant plants in a Long Beach, California front yard (Photo by Steve and Michelle Gerdes)

For a complete description of these seven water reuse projects, please visit the WaterSMART Title XVI website.

Reclamation is providing $1.6 million for communities to study whether water reuse projects would help them to meet their future water needs.

Four feasibility studies in California and three studies in Texas were selected this year. Feasibility studies are funded jointly by Reclamation and project sponsors. A cost-share of at least 50 percent of study is required.

A complete description of the seven new studies selected for funding are online at the WaterSMART Title XVI website.

Since it was established in 2010, WaterSMART has provided about $250 million in competitively-awarded funding to non-federal partners, including tribes, water districts, municipalities and universities. The agency says these investments have conserved enough water to meet the needs of more than 3.8 million people.

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