This week we are pleased to report on two positive recent developments. First, in a speech to the nation’s mayors last Thursday, President Obama indicated that the federal government will be spending more money this year to help local governments improve their water systems. About $80 million will go to Michigan immediately to help improve the situation for residents of Flint, Michigan, the subject of last week’s post. Obama said the additional money for cities came as a result of the bipartisan budget agreement that Congress passed in December. States will be able to use the federal funding to make low-cost loans to local governments for drinking water and wastewater construction projects.
Second, on February 21 California Senator Dianne Feinstein introduced the draft of a new bill designed to provide short-term water supplies to drought-stricken California and long-term investments in drought resiliency throughout the Western United Sates. The bill would push federal agencies to send the largest amount of water possible south within the confines of existing environmental laws, and includes $1.3 billion in funding for desalination, water storage, water recycling, and grants to help communities most at risk for running out of water.
“This bill will not satisfy every water interest in the state,” Feinstein said, “but we have tried mightily to listen and absorb commentary from interested parties. The bill reflects many meetings between Democrats and Republicans, water districts, cities, rural communities, farmers, fishermen and a number of environmental groups.”
This good news is somewhat tentative – it is unclear exactly how much additional federal money will in fact be made available to cities this year, and Senator Feinstein’s bill is in draft form and will have to overcome many legislative obstacles before it becomes law – but we at CWC are cautiously optimistic and will, as always, be working hard to see that these funding initiatives materialize for the good of our nation’s communities.