Congresswoman Grace Napolitano (D-CA) introduced the Water Recycling Investment and Improvement Act of 2019 (HR 1162), which aims to significantly increase the federal investment in major water recycling and reuse projects in 17 Western states. The bill extends the authorization of the Bureau of Reclamation’s Title XVI competitive grants program and increases the authorized funding level from $50 million to $500 million. Due to overwhelming demand and broad support in Congress, the program reached its $50 million limit within three years of its creation.
Congress created the Title XVI competitive grants program in December 2016 as part of the Water Infrastructure Improvements for the Nation (WIIN) Act. The program is therefore often referred to as the Title XVI-WIIN program and is distinct from Title XVI’s congressionally authorized projects. The latter are determined individually by Congress and do not go through the competitive proposal process.
Congress reached the $50 million Title XVI-WIIN authorization with enactment of the FY 2019 Energy and Water Appropriations Act. As of late 2018, 44 Title XVI-WIIN eligible projects were awaiting funding, with a total of $528 million in eligible federal cost-share. The list of projects and supporting cost-share demand are expected to grow as more projects become eligible.
In addition to increasing and extending the authorization for the Title XVI competitive grants program, the Water Recycling Investment and Improvement Act of 2019 expands the geographic scope of the program by removing a requirement that projects be located in sustained drought or disaster areas, makes the program truly competitive by removing a requirement that Congress sign off on each selected project and modernizes the individual program funding cap from $20 million to $30 million.