Bureau of Reclamation Commissioner Michael Connor announced today the selection of 37 WaterSMART (Sustain and Manage America’s Resources for Tomorrow) Grants that will use $12.8 million in federal funding to construct projects that seek to save water, increase energy efficiency and improve environmental conditions while addressing water demands in the West.
“Reclamation is taking a step forward to improve conservation and more efficient use of water and energy in the West,” Commissioner Connor said. “Our nation faces many water related challenges including drought, climate change, energy demands, expanding populations and increased environmental needs. With the money from these grants, project sponsors will accomplish important water conservation and energy efficiency improvements that will help to address those challenges and progress toward more sustainable water supplies.”
Through these new WaterSMART Water and Energy Efficiency Grant projects, federal funding will be leveraged to complete more than $54 million in water management and delivery improvements. These projects will improve water management, increase energy efficiency in the delivery of water, facilitate water marketing projects, protect endangered and threatened species, and carry out other activities to address climate-related impacts on water or prevent water-related crisis and conflict.
WaterSMART Grant projects funded this year will contribute to the Secretary of the Interior’s High Priority Performance Goal for Water Conservation. Under the goal, the Department seeks to enable capability to increase available water supply up to 350,000 acre-feet by 2012. Based on the information submitted by applicants, Reclamation estimates that the 37 projects announced today will result in more than 130,000 acre-feet of conserved water each year once construction has been completed. Adjustments to that projection will be made, if necessary, as Reclamation and project sponsors develop financial assistance agreements for each project.
A number of projects will address the connection between water use and energy use. For example, the Laguna Madre Water District in Port Isabel, Texas will make improvements to its non-potable water system, including installation of an energy recovery turbine to create an expected 17,520 kilowatt-hours per year of electricity from wastewater flows. Other projects expect to save energy through water conservation. The Lower Colorado River Authority in Texas will automate 11 check gate structures, expected to result in 2,560 acre-feet of water savings annually. The Authority estimates that completion of the project will decrease pumping needs and reduce energy consumption by approximately 132,000 kilowatt-hours per year.
Other projects are expected to make contributions to environmental restoration by conserving water or making other improvements that benefit endangered or threatened species. For example, the Three Sisters Irrigation District in Oregon, will provide water saved through pipeline construction to the Deschutes River Conservancy for a protected instream right, complementing habitat restoration efforts in Whychus Creek for threatened species, including bull trout, red band trout, summer steelhead, and Chinook. In Clallam County, Washington, the Agnew Irrigation District expects to save 658 acre-feet of water annually by converting open irrigation ditches to pipe. Conserved water will remain in the Dungeness River during the period most critical to fish, benefiting the Puget Sound chinook, Hood Canal summer chum, bull trout and Puget Sound steelhead.
The District will also work with the Washington Water Trust to facilitate the launch of the Dungeness Water Exchange, which is intended to restore in-stream flows during critical low water periods. In California, the Los Molinos Mutual Water Company will undertake water management improvements with expected savings of approximately 3,000 acre-feet of water annually. Conserved water will remain in Mill Creek, a tributary of the Sacramento River, to benefit chinook salmon and steelhead migration.
Proposals were received from water districts, municipalities and native American Tribes across the West. This year Reclamation received 197 applications, with requests for more than $84 million in federal funding. Projects were ranked through a published set of criteria in which points were awarded for those projects that incorporate renewable energy or address the water-energy nexus, address Endangered Species Act concerns, contribute to water supply sustainability, or incorporate water marketing and banking.
WaterSMART Grants include three other grant categories this year in addition to the Water and Energy Efficiency Grants announced today. Next month, Reclamation plans to announce selections for System Optimization Reviews, Pilot and Demonstration Projects for Advanced Water Treatment, and Research Grants to Develop Climate Analysis Tools.
For more information on the WaterSMART program, visit http://www.usbr.gov/WaterSMART/.