Millions of federal dollars are headed to California to help battle water shortages around the state, federal officials announced Aug. 18.
Twenty-five projects will split $310 million in federal cash to increase water capacity by 213,000 acre-feet and support more than 850,000 people. Of the total, 20 projects are in California; the remaining five are in Hawaii, Idaho, Texas, Utah, and Washington.
The funding comes from the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law that passed in November 2021. Potential recipients competed to win grants for several projects, including some to address environmental concerns.
According to the statement, the funding will help support water management agencies in “stretching existing drinking water supplies,” by increasing water capacity in reservoirs and implementing "advanced treatment of wastewater and naturally impaired surface and groundwater."
Haaland visited Syphon Reservoir Improvement Project at the Irvine Ranch Water District on Thursday to announce the funding. The district will get $12 million to help complete the project.
Accompanied by Camille Calimlim Touton, head of the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation under the Department of the Interior, and other state and local officials during the two-day visit, Haaland also talked to local farmers, water agencies, and residents in Fresno and discuss how the funding would help increase water supplies.
"Water reuse helps communities diversify their water supply as they are facing an unprecedented drought and a changing climate," said Touton, whose team focuses on dam and water resources management.
Steve Sheldon, president of the Orange County Water District, said grant recipients appreciate the funding. But he added the projects were going to be completed regardless of receiving additional federal funds.
In order to qualify for a federal grant, he said, projects would already have needed to invest millions of dollars.
“Most water districts will not spend millions of dollars on planning work and the EIR [environmental impact report] unless they are relatively sure that they will go forward with the project,” Sheldon told The Epoch Times in an email.
He said the federal and state governments should instead make it easier and faster to fund the construction of new water facilities that wouldn’t normally exist.
“Otherwise the public is given false assurances that our water supply problems are being solved,” he said.
A spokesperson for the U.S. Department of the Interior was not immediately available for comment.