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At White House Water Summit, Biden-Harris Administration Announces Bold National Goal to Protect and Restore Freshwater Resources, Delivers Over $1 Billion for Tribal Clean Water Projects

April 23, 2024

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Administration announces $1 billion for clean water for Tribal Nations and funding to combat megadrought in the West through President Biden’s Investing in America agenda

President Biden and Vice President Harris believe that every person should have access to clean drinking water and a healthy environment. Since Day One, the Biden-HarrisAdministration has worked to secure clean water for all, protect our vital freshwater resources, and ensure every community can count on water free of pollutants when they turn on the faucet. The Administration also recognizes that wetlands and other freshwater resources are critical in our fight against climate change.
Today, during Earth Week, the White House is convening state, Tribal, and local leaders from across the country for a White House Water Summit where the Administration will announce a new national goal and partnership to conserve and restore freshwater resources. The America the Beautiful Freshwater Challenge: A Partnership to Conserve and Restore America’s Rivers, Lakes, Streams, and Wetlands sets a bold, new national goal to protect, restore, and reconnect 8 million acres of wetlands and 100,000 miles of our nation’s river and streams.
To achieve the new national freshwater protection goal and to ensure that our freshwater resources are protected for current and future generations as part of the America the Beautiful Freshwater Challenge, the Biden-Harris Administration is also launching a new initiative that calls on all states and other governments and entities, including Tribes, interstate organizations, cities, and local communities to advance their own policiesand strategies for conserving and restoring America’s freshwater systems. Over 100 inaugural members from across the country have already signed on to support freshwater restoration in their communities, including ten states, eight Tribes, and 24 local governments.
To bring safe, clean water to Tribal communities, the Department of Health and Human Services’ Indian Health Services (IHS) and the Department of the Interior’s Bureau of Reclamation (BOR) are announcing over $1 billion from the President’s Investing in America agenda and a new partnership. Roughly half of Tribal households lack access to clean drinking water or adequate sanitation. Today’s announcement includes $700 million from IHS and $320 million from BOR to accelerate the delivery of drinking water and community sanitation infrastructure projects in Indian Country. In addition, IHS and BOR are announcing the signing of a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) between the two agencies to leverage BOR’s engineering capacity to accelerate the delivery of Tribal water projects.
Our nation’s lakes, rivers, streams, estuaries, and wetlands are fundamental to the health, prosperity, and resilience of our communities and are held sacred by many Tribal Nations. They are not only the sources of clean drinking water that flows into the tapsof our homes, but also economic drivers supporting jobs and outdoor recreation across the nation. By absorbing and storing carbon, our nation’s waterways and wetlands – and the forests, grasslands, and farmlands they nourish – play a critical role in the fight against climate change.
Although critically important to both people and nature, our freshwater resources are at increased risk. Through 2019, the U.S. wetlands loss rate increased 50 percent over the prior decade. That was before the U.S. Supreme Court’s Sackett decision last year, which dramatically reduced federal protections for wetlands in one of the largest judicial rollbacks of environmental protections in U.S. history.  Despite this, CongressionalRepublicans are continuing a decades-long effort to undermine Clean Water Act safeguards.
Many states are already using their own authorities and resources to better protect America’s freshwater systems. For example, North Carolina recently set a goal to protect one million acres of natural lands, with a special focus on wetlands, and to restore one million acres of forests and wetlands within the state. New York state recently enacted statutory changes to its Freshwater Wetlands Act that will safeguard an additional million acres of valuable wetlands. And Washington recently protected almost 1,000 miles of rivers as Outstanding National Resource Waters, one of the highest levels of protection afforded to our freshwater resources.
At the White House Water Summit and throughout Earth Week, the Biden-Harris Administration is making additional announcements to build resilience to climate change and ensure every community has access to clean water:

  • The Department of the Interior is announcing an additional $11 million in new resources from the Bureau of Reclamation’s WaterSMART program to help combat Western megadrought. The Biden-Harris Administration isleading a comprehensive effort to make Western communities more resilient to climate change and address the ongoing megadrought across the region by harnessing the full resources of President Biden’s historic Investing in America agenda. Together, the Inflation Reduction Act and Bipartisan Infrastructure Law provide the largest investment in climate resilience in our nation’s history, including $15.4 billion to enhance the West's resilience to drought and deliver unprecedentedresources to protect river systems across the West.
  • As part of the Biden-Harris Get the Lead Out Partnership, the Great Lakes and St. Lawrence Cities Initiative is partnering with three of its members – Chicago, Detroit, and Milwaukee – to launch the Great Lakes Lead Pipes Partnership, a first-of-its kind, mayor-led effort to accelerate lead pipe replacement in cities with the heaviest lead burdens. Many of the estimated 9 million lead pipes remaining in the United States are concentrated in Great Lakes metropolitan areas. This partnership will provide a collaborative forum for Great Lakes big cities to shareemerging best practices to encourage faster, more equitable replacement programs and overcome common challenges, including by reducing per pipe replacement costs, improving community outreach, and spurring water workforce development.
  • The Department of the Interior is announcing more than $70 million from President Biden’s Investing in America agenda for 43 projects in 29 states that will address outdated or obsolete dams, culverts, levees and other barriers to the nation’s rivers and streams. This Bipartisan Infrastructure Law funding will help restore fragmented aquatic habitats and revitalize local economies in communities across the nation while creating new jobs in construction and implementation. Projects receiving funding will reconnect aquatic systems and improve fish passage to help conserve vulnerable species, while building safer infrastructure for communities, increasing recreational opportunities, and improving climate resilience. The funding is also part of an investment of over $3 billion across federal agencies in fish passage and aquatic connectivity projects under President Biden’s Investing in America agenda.
  • The Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) published the Federal Flood Risk Management Standard (FFRMS) final rule to help communities prepare for and reduce flood damage. This rule strengthens standards by increasing elevations and flood proofing requirements of properties in areas at risk of flooding, where federal funds are used to develop or provide financing for new construction and substantial improvement within the FFRMSfloodplain. This will strengthen resilience to flooding, protect lives and properties, minimize damage and disruption to households, reduce insurance costs and safeguard federal investments – ensuring that federally-funded construction projects are built to withstand current and future flood risks.
  • The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) announced $123 million for state and territorial coastal management programs and national estuarine research reserves to support habitat restoration and conservation. Within this investment, $36 million will be designated for projects being carried out in partnership with or directly by Tribes and Native Hawaiians, including reacquisitions and restoration of ecological and culturally significantancestral lands. This investment will help to protect critical resources for coastal habitat restoration, create new jobs, and boost resilience to extreme weather events across our nation’s coastal communities.

Today’s announcements build on recent actions that deliver on the Biden-Harris Administration’s commitment to ensuring safe drinking water, including finalizing the first-ever standard to protect communities from toxic “forever chemicals,” along with rulemakings to hold polluters responsible for PFAS cleanup and to enhance safeguards against dangerous chemical spills in our nation’s waters. The Administration is also continuing to deliver on President Biden’s goal to replace every lead pipe in America in the next decade.
Throughout Earth Week, the Biden-Harris Administration will announce additional actions to build a stronger, healthier future for all. On Monday, President Biden announced the launch of as well as $7 billion in awards through EPA’s Solar for All program. Tuesday is focused on helping ensure clean water for all communities; Wednesday will focus on accelerating America’s clean transportation future; Thursday willfocus on steps to cut pollution from the power sector while strengthening America’s electricity grid; and Friday will focus on providing cleaner air and healthier schools for all children.