Interior Announces 54 New Projects to Receive $24 Million in WaterSMART Grants, Saving Enough Water for 400,000 People

Last edited 09/05/2019

WASHINGTON, DC — Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar announced today that the Bureau of Reclamation has selected 54 new projects in western states to receive a total of $24 million in WaterSMART Water and Energy Efficiency Grants. Once funded and completed, these projects will save an estimated 102,221 acre-feet of water each year, or enough water for more than 400,000 people. In addition, 24 of the projects are expected to save more than 15 million kilowatt-hours of electricity per year, enough electricity for more than 1,300 households.

“Drought, climate change, growing populations, energy demands and basic environmental needs are stressing our finite water and energy supplies,” said Secretary Salazar. “Since we established the WaterSMART program, the 92 grants awarded will result in savings of enough water for an estimated 950,000 people. WaterSMART grants will also save energy, and help America become less dependent on sources of energy that are costly, non-renewable and harm the environment.”

Established in February 2010 by Secretary Salazar, the WaterSMART program facilitates the work of all bureaus of the Department of the Interior to pursue a sustainable water supply for the nation. It establishes a framework to provide federal leadership and assistance on the efficient use of water, integrating water and energy policies to support the sustainable use of all natural resources, and coordinating the water conservation activities of the various Interior offices. The Bureau of Reclamation plays a leading role in the WaterSMART program as the Department's water management agency.

“It is through actions such as the WaterSMART grants that the Bureau of Reclamation continues to work with water districts, communities, other government agencies and Native American Tribes to improve water and energy efficiencies in the West,” Reclamation Commissioner Michael L. Connor said. “By working together, we can find more efficient ways to use the water available in the West to protect jobs, enhance the use of clean energy and promote the sustainable use of limited resources.”

These newest WaterSMART Water and Energy Efficiency Grant projects will leverage federal funding with non-federal cost share to complete more than $76 million in water management and delivery improvements. These projects will improve water management, increase energy efficiency in the delivery of water, facilitate water marketing projects, help to protect endangered and threatened species, and carry out other activities to address climate-related impacts on water or prevent water-related crisis and conflict.

The East Columbia Basin Irrigation Company in Washington, for example, will save electricity through its WaterSMART grant. The irrigation company will convert more than 85,000 feet of open ditch to pipelines to address seepage losses. The improvements are expected to result in a water savings of 7,850 acre-feet each year. The company estimates these improvements will result in a savings of 4.3 million kilowatt-hours of electricity per year because they eliminate the need to pump the water through Grand Coulee Dam.

Through WaterSMART, the Richvale Irrigation District in northern California will implement an online Geographic Information System and irrigation flow-event recording system. These systems will enable them to improve flow management, reduce leaks and spills, and conserve water by providing continuous feedback on consumption to growers. This project is expected to save 11,500 acre-feet of water annually--which will remain in the Butte Basin for other water users.

The Three Sisters Irrigation District in Oregon will use its WaterSMART award to conserve water for environmental needs in the Upper Deschutes Basin. The district will use $859,149 to replace 20,000 feet of open canal with pipe expected to result in 750 acre-feet of water savings annually. The water conserved will then be marketed through the Deschutes River Conservancy for a protected instream right to support critical habitat for bull trout, red band trout, summer steelhead and chinook salmon.

The district also will install a 950-kilowatt capacity turbine generator as part of the project. This renewable energy source is expected to supply 3.1 million kilowatt-hours of electricity annually.

The Boise Project Board of Control in Idaho will receive $578,938 towards a $1.7 million project that will install an 839 kilowatt capacity hydroelectric power plant. The WaterSMART Grant will also allow the Board to implement flow control devices, including a Supervisory Control and Data Acquisitions system to reduce spills in the canal system, expected to result in an annual water savings of 3,218 acre-feet.

Projects such as the Three Sisters Irrigation District and the Boise Project Board of Control are increasing energy capacity by adding renewable energy in the delivery of water in the western United States. Five projects will implement renewable energy components and are estimated to increase the energy capacity by 3,066 kilowatts.

The Bureau of Reclamation considered proposals from water districts, municipalities and Native American Tribes across the West. This year Reclamation received 178 applications, which together requested more than $73.8 million in federal funding. Projects were ranked through a published set of criteria in which points were awarded for those projects that conserve water, incorporate renewable energy or address the water-energy nexus, address Endangered Species Act concerns, contribute to water supply sustainability, or incorporate water marketing.

Another similar funding opportunity is planned for this summer. For more information on the WaterSMART program, visit

Editor's Note: For a complete description of the 54 projects, click here.


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