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From the Mayor's Desk

Rep. Peters, Sen. Padilla Introduce Bill to Tackle Drought, Support San Diego Water Infrastructure

Pure Water San Diego

Today, Representative Scott Peters (CA-50) and U.S. Senator Alex Padilla (D-CA) introduced legislation to help alleviate the western water crisis, stemming from the long-term drought conditions affecting the Colorado River and its reservoirs. The Drought Relief Obtained Using Government Help Today (DROUGHT) Act, would allow federal government loans to take on a greater share of the cost of water infrastructure projects. This bill will support San Diego’s landmark water-recycling project, Pure Water, which will supply half of San Diego’s drinking water by 2035.

Currently, projects receiving assistance from the Water Infrastructure Finance and Innovation Act Program (WIFIA) cannot accept assistance from the federal government for over 80% of the projects’ costs. In practice, this limit has created undue burdens on state and local governments, even when they are able to repay the loan regardless of the federal share of initial funding. The DROUGHT Act will raise the limit from 80% to 90% for projects in areas experiencing extreme drought or historically disadvantaged communities. The bill would also require that projects in those areas be prioritized for funding as they represent the greatest need.

This bill does not affect the obligation of borrowers to repay their loans, the timeline for repayment, nor interest rates of applicable loans.

“San Diegans know that we cannot take our water for granted — that’s why the city and county are investing in long-term solutions like Pure Water,” said Rep. Peters. “My bill will make sure the federal government is also investing in the most basic needs of the millions of people in the West who are subject to drought. I look forward to working with my colleagues in Congress and our local partners to pass this bill into law.”

“Every American deserves access to reliable, clean drinking water and sanitation, but aging infrastructure and years of historic drought have stretched water systems and increased water bills across the West,” said Senator Padilla. “The Water Infrastructure Finance and Innovation Act has successfully invested billions of dollars in California water projects, and this legislation will provide critical additional financial relief for drought-stricken and disadvantaged communities.”

“Thanks to Congressman Peters for introducing this legislation to bring more federal funding for projects creating alternative water sources like Pure Water San Diego,” said San Diego Mayor Todd Gloria. “Federal funding continues to play a key role in the first phase of this project. As we proceed to its second phase, this legislation will allow us to bring in more federal investment to deliver a long-term, clean drinking water source at a lower cost for all San Diegans.”

The DROUGHT Act builds on Representative Peters’ OPRA II Act, which would also support San Diego’s Pure Water project.

Original co-sponsors of the DROUGHT Act include Representatives Nanette Barragán (CA-44) and Raul Ruiz (CA-25).

Full text of the legislation can be found here.