Interior makes $195M available for drought, climate resiliency projects

Aug. 9, 2023
The Department of the Interior is opening three funding opportunities for resilient water supplies, cooperative watershed management and aquatic ecosystem protection.

The U.S. Department of the Interior has announced up to $195 million in funding opportunities to develop more resilient water supplies, support cooperative watershed management and safeguard aquatic ecosystems.

The funds come primarily from the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law’s WaterSMART program, as well as from the Inflation Reduction Act and annual appropriations.

“In the wake of severe drought conditions throughout the West, the Department is putting funding from President Biden’s Investing America agenda to work to develop resilient water supplies and provide clean flowing waterways for the aquatic species that depend on them,” said Secretary Deb Haaland. “Today’s funding opportunities will advance local partnerships and invest in innovative solutions to help build resilient communities.”

As part of the announcement, the Bureau of Reclamation is opening three funding opportunities for drought resilience, planning and design, and cooperative watershed management. Reclamation is also extending an opportunity for aquatic ecosystem projects.

Drought resilience projects

Reclamation is making up to $55 million available in drought resiliency funding to develop projects that can increase water management flexibility. Projects under this funding opportunity are divided into four task areas aimed at infrastructure improvements, groundwater recovery, decision support tools, modeling and measurement and domestic water supply projects for Tribes or disadvantaged communities.

Applicant eligibility and the required non-federal cost-share vary by task area.

Planning and design projects

Reclamation is making up to $35 million available for planning and design grants to support water management improvements. This includes funding for water strategy grants to conduct planning and project design activities to improve water supplies and create comprehensive drought contingency plans.

Applicant eligibility and the required non-federal cost-share vary by task area.

Cooperative watershed management projects

Reclamation is offering up to $40 million in Bipartisan Infrastructure Law funding for collaborative watershed projects under the WaterSMART Cooperative Watershed Management Program. Through this funding opportunity, which has two application periods for funding from this fiscal year and next fiscal year, Reclamation is promoting water reliability and cooperation between stakeholders to reduce conflict, facilitate solutions to complex water issues and stretch limited water supplies.  

This grant will fund establishment of new watershed groups or expansion of existing watershed groups, restoration planning and project design for watershed management projects. This program provides support for local watershed groups to plan and design projects to improve watershed health, benefitting multiple water uses. 

Aquatic ecosystems projects

Reclamation is making an additional $65 million available for projects to restore and protect aquatic ecosystems through a second application period open until January 24, 2024. Funding from this opportunity is part of a total $95 million to support the study, design and construction of ecosystem restoration projects that restore cleaner, colder and more available water to ecosystems with benefits for fisheries, wildlife and aquatic habitat and improved fish passage.

Study and design projects are eligible for between $500,000 and $2 million, and construction projects can receive between $3 million and $20 million. A non-federal cost share of at least 35% is required. 

Applications submitted by the close of the first application period on June 1, 2023, are now under review.