Gila River Indian Community Breaks Ground on Historic Reclaimed Water Pipeline Project To Help Address Colorado River Drought
Communications & Public Affairs Office
SACATON, AZ. – In a Friday, May 19, morning ceremony attended by Gov. Stephen Roe Lewis, U.S. Rep. Greg Stanton, U.S. Bureau of Reclamation Commissioner Camille Calimlim Touton and other stakeholders, the Gila River Indian Community officially broke ground on its new Reclaimed Water Pipeline Project, or RWPP. The 19.4-mile pipeline – an $83 million project funded by the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law – will allow the Community to more flexibly use its water resources and conserve even more water to Lake Mead. The Community signed the agreements funding this project just last month, but is already breaking ground on this critical project.
“The Community continues to lead the way in addressing the historic drought impacting Arizona and the Southwest,” said Gov. Lewis. “By taking water conservation seriously and working closely with the Biden-Harris Administration, our federal delegation and our Colorado River partners, we are making a meaningful difference not only for our people, but for millions of people across the Southwest.”
Commissioner Touton said Reclamation and the Community worked hand in hand for months on the project, which was announced in an April event with Deputy Secretary of the Interior Tommy Beaudreau and Senior Advisor to the President and White House Infrastructure Implementation Coordinator Mitch Landrieu.
“We are pleased to join the Gila River Indian Community as we commemorate the start of this important project to deliver reclaimed water for on-reservation uses and to augment Colorado River supplies,”
said Commissioner Touton. “Working in partnership with Tribes and other communities across the West, we remain committed to enhancing the resiliency of the West to drought and climate change by deploying resources to conserve water and increase water use efficiency. The historic investments from President Biden’s Investing in America agenda have provided key resources to meet these goals, which will be crucial as we adapt to managing limited water supplies in the West.”
Recognizing the urgency of going beyond current system conservation measures, the Community developed the RWPP project in record time, working with Reclamation and its design and supply team to commence construction immediately. The project is scheduled to be completed by the end of 2024. The construction effort represents a major investment in Arizona companies as well, with the majority of the $83 million contracted to T&T Stantec Construction for the installation of more than 19 miles of pipeline and two lift stations. Pipe fabrication will be handled by Diamond Plastics in Casa Grande, with Stantec Consulting, another Arizona company, handling design of the pipeline and pump stations.
“The Bipartisan Infrastructure Law is already making historic investments in our water infrastructure—improving drought resilience in tribal communities and big cities alike,” said Rep. Stanton, an East Valley Democrat who has worked in tandem with the Community on water issues. “Now we need to keep this momentum going and get more federal dollars from the Infrastructure Law and Inflation Reduction Act out the door to continue conserving water long-term.”
The RWPP will move A+ reclaimed water the Community has through its CAP exchange agreements with Mesa and Chandler, which were part of its 2004 settlement. The pipeline will allow the Community to use this A+ effluent in a more flexible way and free up the remaining amounts of Colorado River water currently delivered to the Community through the CAP system.
The Community estimates the RWPP will reduce on-reservation use of Colorado River water on a long-term basis by up to 20,000 acre-feet annually. The Community has committed to make up to 200,000 acre-feet of this water savings available to Reclamation over a 10-year period, with a minimum of at least 78,000 acre-feet to be left in Lake Mead as system efficiency water over that period.
“Time and again, the Gila River Indian Community has demonstrated its deep commitment to strengthening our water future in the face of historic drought,” said Sen. Kyrsten Sinema.” I’m confident that, with leaders like the Community and Governor Lewis at the table, Arizona will continue our long-standing leadership in conserving water, deliver lasting solutions, and give Arizonans peace of mind that our water supply is safe and secure for generations to come.”
Democrat U.S. Sen. Mark Kelly also cited the project’s important impact on water conservation.
“Gila River Indian Community’s Reclaimed Water Pipeline Project shows the long-term impacts that can be realized when tribal, federal and local governments work together for the benefit of our entire state and the Basin,” said Kelly. “This is exactly the type of project I envisioned when I fought so hard for drought and infrastructure funding in the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law. The way to address long-term drought is through long-term term conservation projects just like this.”
Gov. Lewis echoed the Community’s ongoing commitment to meeting the water needs of its people and the state.
“We must continue to move with speed and commitment when it comes to addressing water conservation and improving our much-needed infrastructure,” said Gov. Lewis. “This type of collaboration – which delivers real results for Arizona – must be the norm. I thank Reclamation for its work on the RWPP, just as I want to express my gratitude to the Administration, and all our Colorado River partners for their creativity and commitment to solving the state’s water crisis. This is a landmark day for one and all, but it will not be the last such day.”