Amid Extreme Drought and Record Low Water Levels at Lake Mead, Rep. Susie Lee and Colleagues Introduce Legislation to Fund Large-Scale Water Recycling Projects in the West

June 24, 2021
Press Release
Legislation Will Invest in Wastewater Recycling Projects, Helping Keep More Water in Lake Mead for Nevadans

WASHINGTON – Today, Rep. Susie Lee (NV-03) and Reps. Grace F. Napolitano (CA-32), Raúl Grijalva (AZ-03), and Jared Huffman (CA-02) introduced H.R. 4099, the Large Scale Water Recycling Project Investment Act, to create a water recycling grant program for large-scale projects in California and the other sixteen western states.

“Southern Nevada – and the entire desert southwest – is facing a water crisis, and solving this problem is going to take innovation,” said Rep. Lee. “Wastewater recycling is the type of innovation that we need to tackle this crisis, and it’s going to take a major investment. That is why I’m proud to introduce this bill to invest in wastewater recycling projects that will create reliable, virtually drought-proof water supplies. What’s more, several large-scale water recycling projects are already in the works – they just need an extra boost to get across the finish line. Because Lake Mead supplies water to other western states, funding these wastewater recycling projects can help keep more water in Lake Mead for Nevadans.”

“The Title XVI grant program's successes have shown us how water recycling projects not only create jobs and boost our local economies, they can be brought online in as little as two years in contrast to dams which take 10 to 15 years to build and cost $2 billion now,” said Rep. Napolitano. “As we combat extreme drought and prepare for future water shortages in the arid west, Congress must provide additional funding opportunities now to help get large-scale recycling projects off the ground, and that's precisely what our critical legislation aims to do. I thank Representatives Grijalva, Huffman, and Lee for their partnership in boosting cost-effective, large-scale water recycling projects and securing a sustainable, drought-proof water supply for our communities.”

“The Colorado River Basin, which supplies water to forty million people, has been in drought for more than two decades with no end in sight,” said Rep. Grijalva. “Federal support is urgently needed to help our communities respond to more permanent drought cycles caused by climate change. That support must include federal investments in new drought-proof water supply projects like water reuse and recycling. I applaud Rep. Napolitano for her leadership on this bill, which will allow the federal government to meaningfully support large-scale water reuse and recycling projects that can provide enough new, drought-proof water for tens of millions of Americans each year.”

“Severe drought is becoming the new normal for folks in California, and we can’t allow band-aids and one-sided solutions to result in another water war. Water policy doesn’t have to be a zero-sum game, and it’s time we invest in large-scale water infrastructure projects that will provide drought resiliency without endangering important ecosystems across the state,” said Rep. Huffman. “The grant program established under this bill to support water recycling and reuse projects will meet that mark. I’m glad to join Rep. Napolitano in this effort and am grateful for her leadership in meeting the needs of everyone with a stake in California’s water future.” 

H.R. 4099 establishes a competitive grant program within the Department of the Interior for large-scale water recycling projects that have a total estimated cost of at least $500 million. The legislation authorizes $750 million for the program through Fiscal Year 2027; projects must be within one of the Bureau of Reclamation's seventeen western states. Senator Catherine Cortez Masto (D-NV) plans to introduce companion legislation in the Senate.

Recently, water levels at Lake Mead reached the lowest point on record. Lake Mead currently supplies water 25 million people across Nevada, Arizona, and California. This legislation will provide funding for wastewater recycling programs across the west, helping western states be less dependent on Lake Mead.

The full text of the Large Scale Water Recycling Project Investment Act can be viewed here.