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Congress Passes Waters Infrastructure Improvements For The Nation Act, Promises to Support California Water Agencies

On December 16, 2016, exactly one week after it cleared the Senate with strong bipartisan support, President Obama signed the Water Infrastructure Improvements for the Nation (WIIN) Act into law. The WIIN Act includes not only the Water Resources Development Act (2016) and funding for Flint, Michigan relief efforts but also an entire section devoted to California water management (Title III, Subtitle J, California Water). The statute illustrates the federal government’s commitment to long-term investment in California water projects that promote efficient water storage, flood control, desalination and water recycling, all while upholding prior protections of endangered wildlife and their habitats.

The “California Water” section defines the relationship and empowers cooperation between California water agencies and federal government agencies, such as the Department of the Interior and the Department of Commerce. Sections 4001 and 4003 of the act vest in the federal government the power to respond quickly and effectively to the needs of California water agencies in the event of droughts, floods and storms. In these situations, the federal government will work primarily with the state-funded California State Water Project (SWP) and the federally-funded Central Valley Project (CVP) to ensure that water gets where it needs to go.

All in all, the WIIN Act has been celebrated by various interest groups across the country as a strong step in the right direction towards improved water infrastructure and technological investment. In California, the sections pertaining to federal assistance in drought and flood mitigation promise to provide improved water supplies without implicating further concerns regarding the ESA or existing biological opinions. It is hoped that the pledges contained in the act will help provide further stability and relief to California water agencies and their customers as they try to adapt to constantly-shifting supply and demand for water across the state.

For more information, see, S.612—WIIN Act,

(Steve Anderson)