Funds to Support Drought Resiliency

The United States Department of Interior, Bureau of Reclamation is now accepting applications for the WaterSMART Drought Response Program. There is $16.5 million available for this program and applications are due on October 5, 2021.

What is the purpose of this program? The WaterSMART Drought Response Program provides an opportunity for eligible entities to leverage their money and resources by cost sharing with The Bureau of Reclamation on Drought Resiliency Projects that will increase the reliability of water supplies; improve water management; and provide benefits for fish, wildlife, and the environment to mitigate impacts caused by drought. Projects carried out through Drought Resiliency Project Grants can increase water management flexibility – making our water supply more resilient. This helps to prepare for and address the impacts of drought.

Who is eligible to apply? Under P.L. 111-11, Section 9502, applicants eligible to receive an award under this notice include:

Category A applicants:
  • States, Tribes, irrigation districts, and water districts;
  • State, regional, or local authorities, the members of which include one or more organizations with water or power delivery authority; and
  • Other organizations with water or power delivery authority.
Category B applicants:
  • Nonprofit conservation organizations that are acting in partnership with and with the agreement of an entity described in Category A. Category B applicants must include with their application a letter from the Category A partner, stating that they are acting in partnership with the applicant and agree to the submittal and content of the proposal.

Applicants must also be located in one of the following states or territories: Alaska, Arizona, California, Colorado, Hawaii, Idaho, Kansas, Montana, Nebraska, Nevada, New Mexico, North Dakota, Oklahoma, Oregon, South Dakota, Texas, Utah, Washington, Wyoming, American Samoa, Guam, the Northern Mariana Islands, the Virgin Islands, and Puerto Rico.

What are eligible project activities? The proposed resiliency project should improve the ability of water managers to continue to deliver water and power during a drought. The proposed project should decrease vulnerabilities and costs of drought by giving water managers flexibility in times of low water supply. In addition, the proposed project must be beyond routine water management activities or activities required by state law for conservation and efficiency. The proposed resiliency project should also help avoid the need for emergency response actions, such as water hauling programs and temporary infrastructure. Projects funded under this funding opportunity must have ongoing benefits to build long-term resilience to drought, even if they also address an immediate drought concern.

Tasks A and B, below, describe project categories eligible for funding. Applications may include any one, or a combination, of the types of projects described in Tasks A and B.

Task A – Increasing the Reliability of Water Supplies through Infrastructure Improvements. Project may include:
  • System modifications or improvements. Projects that will increase flexibility of water conveyance and deliveries, facilitating access to water supplies in times of drought. Projects include, but are not limited to:
    • Constructing or modifying surface water intakes to access supplies when water levels are low, or to allow access at different locations.
    • Constructing new conveyance system components to increase flexibility to deliver water from different sources, to facilitate voluntary water marketing or to deliver water from alternative sources.
    • Constructing interties between water conveyance systems to increase options for water deliveries.
    • Installing barriers or other facilities to prevent saltwater intrusion into surface supplies.
  • Storing water and/or recharging groundwater supplies. Projects that enable the capture or storage of additional water supplies that can be made available during drought. Projects include, but are not limited to:
    • Developing or expanding small-scale surface water storage facilities such as off-stream storage ponds.
    • Installing water towers and storage tanks to store water for municipal and domestic use.
    • Installing recharge ponds or injection wells to increase recharge of surplus, inactive, or reclaimed water. Recharged water can serve multiple purposes such as sustainable conjunctive use in times of drought, deterring saltwater intrusion into freshwater aquifers, and limiting additional land subsidence.
  • Developing alternative sources of water supply including water treatment. Projects that develop alternative water supplies to build resiliency to the impacts of drought. Projects include, but are not limited to:
    • Constructing wells to provide back-up water supplies during times of drought.
    • Constructing extraction wells at groundwater banks to improve extraction and return capabilities during dry years.
    • Constructing or expanding small-scale water treatment facilities to treat impaired groundwater, municipal wastewater, stormwater runoff, for environmental, agricultural, or potable purposes.
    • Constructing stormwater capture and reuse systems, including green stormwater infrastructure solutions such as rain gardens, cisterns, and bioswales.
    • Installing residential grey water and rain catchment systems.
Task B – Projects to Improve Water Management through Decision Support Tools, Modeling, and Measurement. Task B Projects are intended to help provide entities with water use information and tools to monitor the onset of drought, detect different levels of drought that may trigger certain drought mitigation and response actions, and identify potential strategies to address drought. Task B Projects also includes developing tools that facilitate water marketing between willing buyers and sellers to redistribute water supplies to meet other existing needs or uses (e.g., agricultural, municipal, or dedication to in-stream flows). Projects may include:
  • Developing water management, water marketing, and modeling tools to help communities evaluate options and implement strategies to address drought.
    • Developing online decision support tools to help communities identify alternative water supplies or water management options in times of drought.
    • Developing new models or improving existing models for analyzing and predicting drought conditions. Such models should be based on proven methods to analyze drought frequency, duration, and intensity, as opposed to research type efforts.
    • Developing water budgets and tiered pricing programs that incentivize decreased consumptive use. Tiered pricing can be paired with water budgets to reward customers who use less water by charging lower rates for water in a lower tier. For example, Tier I pricing can include a relatively low price for indoor water use within a budgeted amount (e.g., 55 gallons per person per day). Reasonable water use above that amount—assumed to be for outdoor use—would be included within Tier 2 pricing at a higher cost than Tier 1. Tier 3 would establish an even higher price for all water use that exceeds the total water budget.
    • Real-time operational modeling to track supply conditions and demands. Modeling can be used to analyze different operational scenarios to optimize pumping capacities, evaluate user restrictions, water delivery needs, etc., and determine how to best meet other compliance standards such as temperature control points, water quality, or Endangered Species Act (ESA)-related requirements.
    • Assessing water quality with respect to the level of drought to determine appropriate measures to protect water quality for fish and wildlife, agriculture, and human consumption (e.g., water quality testing or constructing groundwater monitoring wells).
    • Developing tools to facilitate water marketing, connecting willing sellers and willing buyers that want to participate in the buying, selling, leasing, or exchanging of water.
  • Installing water measurement equipment and monitoring instrumentation devices to accurately track water supply conditions (e.g., water service meters, stream flow measurement structures, flow meters, well level instruments, reservoir level monitors). Projects may include, but are not limited to:
    • Improving measurement accuracy (e.g., installing weirs, flumes, ramps, etc. in open channels or installing meters in pressurized pipes).
    • Installing dual municipal meters to track indoor versus outdoor water use, allowing water purveyors to control or discourage landscape irrigation and other outdoor uses in times of drought.
    • Installing and/or modifying monitoring equipment associated with stream flow measurement devices, water level sensors, etc.
What is the funding availability for this program?
Approximately $16.5 million will be available to fund new projects in FY 2022 with approximately 15-21 projects to be awarded. Multiple applications for funding may be submitted for consideration, however, no more than $2,000,000 will be awarded in any fiscal year to any one applicant under this NOFO. Applicants are invited to submit proposals under the following funding groups:
  • Funding Group I may apply for up to $500,000 per agreement for a project.
  • Funding Group II may apply for up to $2 million per agreement for a project. Projects in this group may be funded on an annual basis. Funding for the second and third years of the projects is contingent upon future appropriations.

Is there a cost sharing or match requirement? Applicants must be capable of cost sharing 50 percent or more of the total project costs.

What is the project period?  
  • Funding Group I Projects must be completed within two years.
  • Funding Group II Projects must be completed within three years.

When is the grant deadline? Applications are due on October 5, 2021 at 4pm MDT. The Bureau of Reclamation expects to announce awards in late 2021 or early 2022, subject to the time and amount of FY 2022 appropriations.

The Request for Applications can be found here.

For more information on this grant or how to apply with Morrison’s assistance, please contact the Morrison Grants Team by email at or call us at 530-893-4764.


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