As hundreds of water sector professionals visit Washington, D.C. from March 31 to April 6 for Water Week 2019, it is clear that ensuring communities have healthy environments, robust economies, and a high quality of life will require new ways of thinking about water and new strategies for its management. In this era of population growth, extreme weather events, and environmental challenges, more communities are learning that we can no longer think of water as a resource that’s used once and thrown away. With technology advancements and broad public support for sustainable water management practices, it is time for increased federal investment in innovative water reuse programs to transform the management of this precious resource and sustain our future.

There has been the same amount of water on the planet since the beginning of time moving in a continuous cycle on, above, and below the surface of the Earth. Modern water management challenges include too little water in some locations, too much water in other locations, and the need to safeguard public health and protect the environment when water is put to human use in our homes and businesses. To address all of these issues, communities are rapidly adding water reuse to their water management portfolio. Water reuse, also known as water recycling, is the process of intentionally capturing wastewater, storm water, saltwater or graywater and cleaning it as needed for a designated beneficial freshwater purpose such as drinking, industrial processes, surface or groundwater replenishment, and watershed protection. In short, water reuse uses tested and proven technologies to successfully mimic what already happens in nature.

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Two pieces of legislation recently introduced in the U.S. House of Representatives will help more communities modernize their water management strategies to include water recycling and we urge Congress to pass them: HR 1162, the Water Recycling Investment and Improvement Act of 2019 and HR 1497, the Water Quality Protection and Job Creation Act of 2019.

Rep. Grace NapolitanoGraciela (Grace) Flores NapolitanoCongress: Pass legislation that invests in America's water future Live coverage: Senate Judiciary to vote on Kavanaugh confirmation House passes bipartisan water infrastructure bill MORE (D-Calif.) introduced HR 1162, the Water Recycling Investment and Improvement Act of 2019, which 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. The legislation also expands the geographic scope of the program by removing a requirement that projects be located only in sustained drought or disaster areas. This, along with modernizing the individual project funding cap from $20 to $30 million while still requiring a 75 percent local match, expands the program’s applicability and continues to leverage federal funding under this historically successful water recycling program.

House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee Chairman Peter DeFazioPeter Anthony DeFazioThe Hill's Morning Report - Presented by Pass USMCA Coalition - Deadline approaches for 2020 Dems Dems eye big infrastructure package, with or without Trump Dems, Trump pull T surprise on infrastructure MORE (D-Ore.); Napolitano, the House Subcommittee on Water Resources and Environment chairwoman, and Reps. Don YoungDonald (Don) Edwin YoungCongress: Pass legislation that invests in America's water future Bipartisan group introduces legislation to protect federal workers' health benefits during shutdowns Deceptions may sink plans to drill for oil in the Arctic Refuge MORE (R-Alaska) and John KatkoJohn Michael KatkoHere are the eight Republicans who voted with Democrats on the Equality Act House approves anti-LGBT discrimination Equality Act Lawmakers renew efforts to put Harriet Tubman on bill MORE (R-N.Y.) introduced HR 1497, the Water Quality Protection and Job Creation Act of 2019. The bill reauthorizes the Program for Alternative Water Source Projects at $75 million per year for five years. Under the program, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency would fund projects aimed at meeting critical water supply needs by conserving, managing, reclaiming, or reusing water, wastewater, or stormwater, or by treating wastewater or stormwater for beneficial uses. The same bill reauthorizes the Clean Water State Revolving Fund at $4 billion per year, State Management Assistance at $300 million per year, Watershed Pilot Projects at $120 million per year, and includes a four-year extension of the combined sewer and sanitary sewer overflow and stormwater recapture and reuse grant authority.

Utilities are able to leverage these federal cost share programs to build sustainable water producing infrastructure projects that both support the economy and protect the environment. From 1992-2017, the Bureau of Reclamation awarded $715 million to support water reuse projects, which leveraged more than $2.8 billion in nonfederal cost share.

Water reuse technology allows us to safely and effectively treat virtually any water source to be suitable for any use. Water reuse technology also provides communities with tools to restore watersheds, protect habitats, and manage wet weather events. Increased federal investment in water reuse, beginning with these two pieces of legislation, is vital for our nation’s future.

Paul D. Jones II, P.E. is President of the WateReuse Association and General Manager of the Eastern Municipal Water District, which is one of the largest producers of recycled water in California. Paul has more than 20 years’ experience managing water utilities. Patricia Sinicropi is the Executive Director of the WateReuse Association and has nearly two decades of experience as a policy expert and advocate on water-related issues in Washington, D.C. The WateReuse Association represents a coalition of utilities and businesses that support the development of recycled water.