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Interior Department to Fund Water Projects in Drought-Stricken States

GinaMarie headshotWords by Gina-Marie Cheeseman
Energy & Environment
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The entire state of California is in a drought, and nearly half of it is in the worst category: exceptional. Four years of record low precipitation across the state and low snowfall in the mountains have left reservoirs at very low levels. It’s getting seriously scary, and the state needs all the help it can get.

Enter the federal government. The Department of the Interior’s Bureau of Reclamation announced last week that it will invest almost $50 million to improve water efficiency and conservation in 12 western states, including California. The Bureau of Reclamation will invest over $24 million in grants for 50 water and energy efficiency projects. Over $23 million will be invested in seven water reclamation and reuse projects in California, and almost $2 million in seven water reclamation and reuse feasibility studies in California and Texas.

"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 Interior Secretary Sally Jewell in a statement. "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."

Two projects funded in already arid San Joaquin Valley


Some of the projects the Bureau of Reclamation plans to fund in California are in the state’s hardest hit areas. The San Joaquin Valley, that big swath in the middle of the state that helps feed the nation, is one of those areas, and the Bureau is investing in two projects.

One of those projects is in Stanislaus County, where $300,000 is designated by the Bureau for a $787,350 project to line about 2 miles of the earthen Molasses Ditch with a concrete-lined canal. The project, which will be implemented by the Central California Irrigation District in Stanislaus County, is expected to save 476 acre-feet of water a year that is currently lost to seepage.

Another project involves the city of Fresno, the largest city in the San Joaquin Valley. The Bureau is funding $1 million of a $17.85 million project that is the largest funded project. Called the Friant-Kern Pipeline Project Reclamation, the city of Fresno will install 4.6 miles of 60-inch diameter pipe and a new turnout diversion structure to connect the Friant-Kern Canal with the city’s Northeast Surface Water Treatment Facility.

The new pipeline will allow Fresno to bypass 47 miles of lined and unlined open-channel canals now used to deliver water to the treatment facility. The project is expected to save 4,050 acre-feet of water a year by reducing seepage. The conserved water will be delivered to the treatment facility where it will be treated and then used to meet Fresno residents’ water needs. The project helps the city meet the strategies in its Water Resources Management Plan, a plan that focuses on optimizing groundwater and surface water supplies so there is enough water during times of extended drought.

Image credit: Flickr/bluesbby

Gina-Marie Cheeseman headshotGina-Marie Cheeseman

Gina-Marie is a freelance writer and journalist armed with a degree in journalism, and a passion for social justice, including the environment and sustainability. She writes for various websites, and has made the 75+ Environmentalists to Follow list by Mashable.com.

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