US water and wastewater may get US$ 11.8 billion boost

Water reuse measures totalling US$ 126 million to be undertaken by the Bureau of Reclamation are one of a number of measures included in the US$ 825 billion economic recovery legislation proposed by the House of Representatives Appropriations Committee on 15 January 2009, which is also likely to benefit upcoming desalination projects.

The overall infrastructure investment portion of the package is approximately US$ 63.5 billion with nearly 20% or approximately US$ 11.8 billion targeted for community water and wastewater infrastructure: US$ 6 billion for wastewater projects funded through the Clean Water State Revolving Fund (CWSRF), US$ 2 billion for drinking water projects funded through the Drinking Water State Revolving Fund, and US$ 3.8 billion for rural water and wastewater systems.

In addition, the package includes US$ 500 million for western water supply projects, including water reuse projects, through the Bureau of Reclamation and US$ 400 million for watershed protection projects through the Natural Resources Conservation Service.

In the US Senate, a move is under way to increase the total water and wastewater spending to US$ 10 billion and US$ 20 billion respectively. The Senate's plan will be announced next week.

Half of the US$ 6 billion funding would be disbursed by the states as loans, while the remainder would be to provide assistance, "in the form of additional subsidization, including forgiveness of principal, negative interest loans, and grants, to municipalities ... for projects that are included on the State's priority list established under section 603(g)."

Eighty percent of the grant money would be for projects "to benefit municipalities that meet affordability criteria as determined by the Governor of the State," and 20% for projects "to address water-efficiency goals, address energy-efficiency goals, mitigate stormwater runoff, or encourage environmentally sensitive project planning, design, and construction, to the extent that there are sufficient project applications eligible for such assistance."

At $825 billion, the legislation would be one of the largest bills ever to move through Congress, and the leader of the House of Representatives, Nancy Pelosi, and Senator Harry Reid, the Senate majority leader, have pledged to have it ready for new president Obama's signature by mid-February.

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