The California State Water Resources Control Board has $9.5 million in grant funding available (Notice of Funding Availability) through the Drinking Water for Schools Program, which may be used to install water bottle filling stations or drinking water fountains, and for interim water supplies and treatment devices for schools where contamination is an issue.
Local Educational Agencies (LEAs) are eligible to apply for these funds, including schools that serve kindergarten through 12th grade, and preschools and daycares that are located on school property.
During the first nine months, the program is open only to LEAs that serve Disadvantaged Communities (DAC) with a population of less than 20,000. County offices of education are encouraged to apply on behalf of multiple small districts within their jurisdiction, which can reduce costs through joint purchasing and contracting.
If your school or district is interested in learning more about this exciting new opportunity to improve student access to safe drinking water you can access the guidelines and application here or contact Kim Hanagan, State Water Resources Control Board at (916) 323-0624.
Rural Community Assistance Corporation was selected by the State Water Resources Control Board to provide technical assistance during the grant application and implementation period. Contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org for more information. You're also welcome to call Daniel at CWC at 559-733-0219.
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
June 16, 2017
Sacramento, Calif. -- Water justice advocates and environmental, health, rural and equity organizations thank the California Legislature for including emergency drinking water funds in the 2017-18 state budget to continue to chip away at California’s drinking water crisis. The $17 million allocated will address many immediate needs, but advocates urge the legislature to enact a long-term, sustainable funding source to meet the ongoing needs of the state’s water systems.
The budget includes $8 million to the State Water Board program for emergency replacement of domestic wells and emergency connections to community water systems; $4 million to the Department of Water Resources for emergency relief and $5 million to the Department of Social Services for an Electronic Benefit Transfer (EBT) water benefit pilot program.
Drinking water advocates are especially grateful to Senator Ricardo Lara, Assemblymembers Richard Bloom and Dr. Joaquin Arambula for their leadership in securing this critical funding.
“This is a critical step in maintaining a commitment to the vulnerable Californians most affected by the drought, and provides needed resources to continue work toward finding long term sustainable water solutions for them,” said Tom Collishaw, President/Chief Executive Officer, Self-Help Enterprises.
“The funds included in the state budget will ensure continued work to provide relief to the thousands of Californians still impacted by the worst drought in our state’s history, and those facing other water emergencies” said Stanley Keasling, Rural Community Assistance Corporation’s Chief Executive Officer.
“This important funding will help provide emergency drinking water solutions to those in urgent need” said Jonathan Nelson, Policy Director for the Community Water Center. “However, to truly deliver on the promise of the Human Right to Water, the Legislature needs to pass SB 623 (Monning with Principal Co-Author De Leon) this year in order to create a sustainable funding source that ensures all Californians have access to safe and affordable drinking water.”
Hundreds of California communities are out of compliance with state and federal drinking water standards, and some communities have had arsenic flowing from their taps for more than a decade. The problem is particularly acute in rural, low-income communities throughout the state.
Studies have shown that adequate hydration is linked to students’ higher academic performance. Increased water consumption instead of sugar sweetened beverages like sodas, sports drinks, fruit drinks and flavored milks can help limit weight gain and prevent dental caries.
Despite Governor Brown’s official declaration ending California’s drought, in Central California alone, more than 1,000 residents remain without water. The funds included in this state budget will provide emergency relief including statewide well replacement, permanent connections to public systems, well abandonment and debt relief.
"This budget also invests in an initiative to bring short-term relief to residents in poverty who have been living for years without safe drinking water, with supplemental CalFresh assistance. Struggling Californians can't afford to wait for long-term solutions. As we work towards sustainable infrastructure, this budget works to help those most in need." Tracey Patterson, Director of Legislation, California Food Policy Advocates.
"We're thrilled to see this continued commitment to safe, affordable and reliable drinking water and wastewater service. Communities that still can't access these fundamental services are fortunate to have champions in state government that are eager to tread alongside on their ongoing fight for the human right to water," said Phoebe Seaton, Co-Director, Leadership Counsel for Justice and Accountability.
While this budget represents progress, California drinking water advocates will continue to work toward a sustainable funding source to finance much needed water infrastructure improvements for the more than one million Californians who continue to struggle with unsafe or unreliable water.
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
CONTACT: Debi Ores, (916)706-3346, Debi.Ores@CommunityWaterCenter.org
Sacramento – This week, the State Water Resources Control Board (SWRCB) approved the 2017-2018 Drinking Water State Revolving Fund Intended Use Plan (DWSRF IUP).
The IUP continues the Board’s commitment to aiding water systems in need of assistance, in particular systems serving disadvantaged communities. The newly approved IUP creates a new designation of Expanded Small Community Water Systems for those that serve 10,000 – 20,000 residents or have between 3,300 and 6,600 service connections. These community systems are now eligible for principal forgiveness funding for up to 50% of their project costs. This will alleviate the financial burden facing already impoverished populations.
Community Water Center (CWC) has advocated for the State Water Board to allow severely disadvantaged communities larger than 10,000 residents to apply for grant funding for the last few years. The inability to receive grant funding creates huge issues for communities like Arvin, who are unable to afford the costs related to pure loan funding to remedy their drinking water problems. This year CWC worked with Assemblymember Salas to author a bill (AB 560) to require this increased funding access to larger SDACs.
“The action taken by the Water Board will bring relief to Arvin and other small communities throughout the Central Valley that have struggled to provide access to clean, affordable drinking water,” said Assemblymember Salas. “I want to thank the Water Board, CWC and all the stakeholders that made this a reality."
We thank Assemblymember Salas for his leadership in taking up the important cause of increased access to favorable financing options for some of the communities most in need of assistance in California. CWC is happy that due to Salas’ leadership and the SWRCB, larger SDACs will now have much-needed access to better funding options.
However, while this bill will help improve access for larger disadvantaged communities to receiving assistance for drinking water, California must take the next step of passing SB 623 (Monning), which will provide a new sustainable source of funding to meet longstanding gaps in drinking water funding. The DWSRF and other funding sources, like Prop 1, are limited pots of money reserved only for one-time costs, like capital infrastructure, leaving communities struggling to fund continued operations and maintenance without a funding source. SB 623 will help cover these funding gaps, furthering the goal of ensuring all Californian’s have access to safe, clean, and affordable drinking water.
By Ezra David Romero & Kerry Klein
Published June 6, 2017
Read or listen to the full story HERE
In the third installment of the series Contaminated, KVPR focuses on the opportunities that would be presented and disasters avoided by passage of Senate Bill 623. The bill would establish the Safe and Affordable Drinking Water Fund, creating a pool of money to help cover long term water system costs for Californians who lack access to clean water.
This resource would help disadvantaged communities while avoiding failed infrastructure projects like the one seen in the community of Lanare. Although Fresno County approved $1.3 million for the initial construction costs of an arsenic treatment plant, Lanare was left without funding for operation and maintenance. This mistake led to closure of the plant a mere six months after its 2007 construction, ultimately failing to address the contamination faced by the population of 600.
Check out this article, which features a conversation with Community Water Center's Jonathon Nelson, to learn more about the proposed legislation, possible funding sources, and the fate of Lanare's water crisis.
The problem of contaminated drinking water in small communities such as Seville in Tulare County can be solved if the state establishes a safe drinking water fund similar to the Lifeline program for basic phone service, an advocacy group with roots in the Valley said Tuesday.
Like Flint, Mich., where lead contamination made headlines, “a drinking water crisis” in California also exists involving tap water contaminated with nitrates, arsenic and disinfection byproducts, said Laurel Firestone, co-director of the Community Water Center, which began in Visalia and has an office in Sacramento.
The problem of contaminated tap water is especially acute in the Central Valley, but about 300 communities and schools statewide are not meeting drinking water standards, she said.
Drinking the water can harm human health, she said.
“We are calling on state leaders to create a safe and affordable drinking water fund to ensure all communities have access to safe drinking water,” she said. “A reliable funding source is the biggest barrier to helping communities … get a reliable supply of water.”
The issue affects low-income communities disproportionately, and nitrate contamination disproportionately affects Latino communities, Firestone said.
On Tuesday, Community Water Center and other advocacy groups – Clean Water Actionbased in Oakland, Leadership Counsel for Justice & Accountability, and the AQUA coalition – lobbied the Legislature about their proposal.
Assemblyman Devon Mathis, R-Visalia, whose district includes East Porterville where wells ran dry in the drought and where nitrates have been found in drinking water, issued a statement.
“Every Californian has a civil right to safe, clean, reliable drinking water,” he said. “I’m open to any ideas that seek a statewide solution to what is a statewide problem.”
To support their cause, the advocates released a poll showing public support for a safe drinking water fund.
The telephone poll of 1,000 people by landline and cellphone showed “strong majorities are willing to pay to fix drinking water contamination throughout the state with a fee on their water bill,” states a report by FM3, a public opinion polling company in Los Angeles and Oakland.
According to the poll, 57 percent of those surveyed would be willing to pay as much as $4 a month extra on their water bill.
Telephone utilities have Lifeline programs that provide discounted service to those who qualify that is covered via a small charge to phone bills.
“A program like that would be appropriate,” said Jennifer Clary, water programs manager for Clean Water Action.
The fund could help fix water systems that have either man-made or natural contamination – the arsenic in the water supply for Kettleman City is naturally occurring, for instance.
Rebecca Quintana, who owns a home in Seville in Tulare County, went to Sacramento on Tuesday to lobby the Legislature on behalf of the idea. She said contaminated water has been a problem for 40 years.
“There are people coming down with rashes due to nitrates in the water,” she said.
Quintana’s story was part of a special report by former Bee reporter Mark Grossi. Grossi was a 2016 fellow for the Washington, D.C.-based Alicia Patterson Foundation. He is writing a series of stories that focus on the San Joaquin Valley’s rural areas where people face environmental challenges.
Quintana’s 34-year-old daughter, Regina Lujan, died of breast cancer and although the cause is a mystery, “throughout my pregnancy I did drink the water,” Quintana said Tuesday.
Nitrates in water in agricultural regions are caused by fertilizer applied to cropland, according to a 2012 study by the University of California, Davis.
The advocacy groups did not specifically mention agriculture at a news conference Tuesday but “we know we can’t solve the nitrate problem without agriculture being part of the solution,” said Jenny Rempel, director of education and engagement for Community Water Center, following the news conference.
Over one million Californians are impacted by unsafe water each year, and almost 13,000 Californians have completely run out of water during this drought.
Over the last two years, the state has committed significant funding and resources to address water challenges statewide, yet California’s small, low-income communities still experience challenges to accessing safe, affordable water. The Community Water Center and our partners are advocating for a one-time allocation of $56 million from the 2016-2017 budget to:
Provide permanent, interim, and emergency drinking water solutions for small, low-income communities and households,
Improve water access in schools,
Promote water and energy efficiency low-income communities and households, and
Improve data collection and management of California’s drinking water crisis.
Californians need an ongoing source of sustainable funding to secure safe, clean and affordable drinking water and sanitation for all communities. Until this ongoing source of funding is secured, however, our communities demand immediate investments through the 2016-2017 budget to meet our urgent drinking water needs. It is completely unacceptable that over one million Californians are impacted by unsafe water annually, and we need to act now to address this crisis.
Take action now! Click here.
Follow the action on our Facebook and Twitter accounts using the hashtags:
#agua4all, #H2O4CAKids, #FundSafeH2O
By Mark Grossi
(05/04/2014) PORTERVILLE — Outside her front door, Carmen Almanza has a postcard view of the Sierra Nevada and a huge pot of water for drinking, washing dishes and flushing the toilet.
Carmen, 79, and husband Al, also 79, have lived in this cozy house 33 years, raised seven children and never worried about water in ruralTulare County. But when the kitchen tap suddenly died one morning in early April, they knew their private well had run dry.
After a month of feverish calls, Carmen said she can't find help for a $15,000 loan to drill the well deeper. They've been living without running water ina kind of financial limbo.
Their small income covers their house payments, but it's too low to qualify for a federal loan and frustratingly too high for a grant. And most of California's $687 million drought-relief money comes from bonds, which authorities say cannot be given to individual residents.
Bottom line, the Almanzas are falling through a crack in a system that threatens to leave them dry in the sweltering San Joaquin Valley summer.
"We have relatives who want us to move in with them," Carmen said. "But we don't want to leave. We love it here. We raised our children here. We don't want a handout, just a little help."
Such stories are beginning to sprout throughout rural Valley areas as summer nears after one of the driest winters in decades.
There is precious little river water for farmers, who are now forced to pump groundwater to keep their fields alive. The water table is dropping swiftly in farm country.
Tulare County leaders said they are in drought triage. They said more than a dozen private well owners are looking for help, and many others may not have reported their problem yet. In other words, this could get worse.
"The county is very concerned," said Eric Coyne of the Tulare County Economic Development Office. "We're searching for state and federal funding, but there is very little relief designed for private well owners."
How many people are losing wells at their rural homes around the Valley and California? Nobody knows. Government agencies don't track private wells in any detail.
California regulates 95% of the water sources — cities, small water systems and public utility districts — but not an estimated 600,000 private wells serving 1.4 million people.
Tulare County has more than 20,000 private wells, according to a 2006 State Water Resources Control Board study that was updated last year.
Counties issue permits for building and disposing of wells. Stanislaus County is beginning to study a groundwater management plan that might include financial help for private well owners.
But generally counties don't have the money to drill new wells for rural residents. In counties where the drought hits hardest, leaders also are focused on trying to find help for entire communities, in addition to working with private well owners.
The Almanzas' dry well has been discussed at length with the U.S. Department of Agriculture Service Center, which is trying to help the couple.
Sally Tripp, a rural development specialist with USDA, said her department is looking for a suitable funding category.
"We're trying to be creative to see if they can fit into a program where we have some flexibility," she said. "We've had lots of calls about private wells — more calls, by far, than we have had in the last few years."
State leaders also are trying to find solutions for private well owners by helping to fund extensions to public drinking water systems, though that option may not work for the Almanzas.
The California Department of Public Health said it could help 15 or more homes consolidate into a drinking water system that could get funding. CDPH also said it is prepared to work through local public agencies to provide private well owners with interim water.
Even if they had the money, the Almanzas would be waiting in line with many others who need a well drilled. The wait list is six months to a year, county and federal officials say.
But the elderly couple on a fixed income needs assistance right now, said the Community Water Center, a Visalia advocacy group that specializes in helping rural, low-income residents and communities of color.
"Drought relief from the state and federal government is wonderful, but nobody is looking to help the people hit the hardest," said Maria Herrera, community advocacy director at the center. "Why is it that the burden falls on these individuals and advocacy groups to find a way?"
The well at the back of the Almanza property is about 75 feet deep, and it has provided water since at least the early 1980s. After it went dry, a nearby neighbor let them hook up to his water supply until his private well began to fail.
"The wells are all having a problem in this area," said Al, who had been a gardener and landscaper until a few years ago when crippling arthritis in his knees and back left him unable to work.
Now, one of the Almanzas' sons, Victor, 54, fills plastic-lined trash cans with water from his hose in Porterville and hauls them out to his parents' house every few days.
On the walls of their home, Carmen and Al have photographs of the Almanza children, including shots of those who have been in the military. There also are treasured portraits of themselves, dating back to 1950.
In their kitchen, the Almanzas often use paper plates to avoid dishwashing after meals.
Al leans on his walker and watches as Carmen, his wife of 57 years, struggles to lift a bucket of water from the front yard. She hauls it to the pink-painted bathroom and dumps it into the toilet to flush.
"If I could do something, just to go back to work," says Al, "I would."
UPDATE: Due to this story being run in local news, numerous people have stepped forward offering assistance to the Almanza family and soon a new well will be drilled at their home free of charge. Read about it HERE.
By Rick Montanez
ABC 30 – KFSN-TV Fresno, CA
(02/19/2014) FRESNO, Calif. — Communities around the Valley are facing ongoing water problems like contamination, on top of drought issues. Gov. Jerry Brown’s proposed drought relief legislation promises to help with those issues.
The tiny Tulare County community of Sultana only has two wells. One serves as a main well, the other as a back-up. The water the back-up pulls from the ground is contaminated, however.
“We use it in case our primary goes down. But we also have to send notices out to people, before they can use the water,” Michael Prado, local water board president, said.
Prado and Tom Voss are both on the local water board. They say this town has had water problems for years. Well levels are now dropping because of the drought and any outside help they can get to pay for a new well is very welcome.
“We need it in this area, there’s a lot of people that it serves,” Voss said. “If we can get the money, it’d be good for us.”
Gov. Brown, Senate President Pro-tem Darrel Steinberg and Assembly Speaker John Perez announced a joint bill to spend $687 million on drought relief. $14 million of that is directed at communities with ongoing water issues, made worse by the drought, like Sultana.
“This is a time to pull together as Californians first to rise above a lot of divisions that pull us apart cause we don’t know how long this thing is going to last,” Brown said.
The democrat-backed measure would also fund housing for unemployed farm workers, recycled water programs, and water conservation awareness campaigns.
As the political trio announced its plan in Sacramento on Wednesday, Republican leaders fired back saying the legislation is lacking long-term solutions.
Back in Sultana, feed store owner and rancher Isaac Orduno says the drought is ruining him financially. He says democrats and republicans are right in both arguments. “We actually need both,” Orduno said. “I know long-term would actually be a better idea, but we need help now.”
For now, water users will just have to hope they don’t need this contaminated back-up well.
Most of the funding for the governor’s plan will come from voter-approved bonds, and some from the general fund.
By Alissa Figueroa
Fusion – America with Jorge Ramos
(12/09/13) Berta Diaz doesn’t drink or cook with the water that comes out of her tap. That’s because she received a letter from the Tulare County Department of Health telling her the water was contaminated. “Public Notice: Nitrates,” it read in big black letters.
According to the Community Water Center, a local advocacy group, Diaz’s central California community has dealt with nitrate levels above the national standard intermittently for nine years. The contaminant can cause “blue baby syndrome,” a condition that can result in sudden infant deaths, as well as some kinds of cancer, skin rashes and birth defects.
“I’m a single mother, I raised four kids,” Diaz said in Spanish. “I work in the fields, but I think I deserve clean drinking water. It should not be a privilege.”
But for many in the Central Valley, which produced about $34 billion in agricultural revenue last year, it is. A 2012 study by UC-Davis researchers found that one in 10 people in the valley are at risk of drinking water with unsafe nitrate levels, and that about 1.3 million people in the Central Valley face increased cost because they must buy drinking water. The Community Water Center estimates that about 1.36 million people in the valley could be drinking tainted groundwater, based on data collected by the State Water Resources Control Board.
“It’s bad and it’s only going to get worse,” says Jay Lund, director of the UC-Davis Center for Watershed Science and the lead researcher on the study.
That’s because 90 percent of the tap water in the valley comes from underground wells, which pull from water tables contaminated from decades of industrial farming. According to Lund’s study, 96 percent of the contamination is caused directly from farming — especially from nitrate-rich synthetic fertilizers used throughout the valley.
This kind of agricultural runoff has historically not been regulated.
Diaz’s home, in Tulare County, is in one of the affected areas. She estimates that she spends about 10 percent of her income on water since she buys bottled water for drinking, cooking and even bathing her two-year-old grandson, who she says gets rashes when she uses water from the tap.
Diaz says she could use that money to buy, “shoes for my daughter, a little more to eat. Things that other people have and we don’t.”
In 2011, a United Nations investigator came to the Central Valley on a tour of places around the world with contaminated drinking water. The investigator stopped in Seville, California, an unincorporated town of 350 with a median income of $14,000.
Chris Kemper is the principal of the town’s lone elementary school. “What we’ve decided to do is shut off the water that comes from the city, from the well over here,” says Kemper. “Then we decided to bring in bottled water for the students.”
His tiny rural school — one of the poorest in the state — spends up to $600 a month on drinking water because nitrate levels there fluctuate between safe and unsafe levels. It was supposed to be a temporary solution, says Kemper, but five years after shutting off the water fountains, Seville’s toxic water problem has still not been solved.
It may be too late to clean up the groundwater in Seville.
“At this point, it’s almost impossible to reverse the contamination,” says Lund. The answer, he says, is to treat the water that comes out of the tap instead.
The UC-Davis researchers estimate it would cost between $20 and $36 million over the next 10 years to build enough water treatment systems to provide clean drinking water to the valley.
Lund said the small towns in the Central Valley aren’t able to meet that cost.
“They just don’t have the money to do it. It’s very expensive or there are not very many people in their system to spread that cost around.”
Despite the costs, the problem, advocates say, is fixable. “This contaminant was man-caused, so humans can fix it,” insists Susana de Anda, co-founder of the Community Water Project in Visalia, Calif. Part of the solution, says de Anda, is “making sure that funding agencies are actually prioritizing our communities without safe drinking water.”
That responsibility lies mainly on the shoulders of the California Department of Public Health, which does not regulate contamination, but is charged with making sure the water that flows from the tap is clean and safe.
The Environmental Protection Agency provides the agency with a revolving grant to ensure that the poorest communities in the state receive funds to provide clean drinking water. To date, the EPA has given California some $1.5 billion in funding.
But California has been slower than any other state in spending the funds. In April, the EPA sent the state Department of Public Health a notice, holding them in non-compliance of the Safe Drinking Water Act, and warned the state that funds would be cut if they weren’t put to use.
The state Department of Public Health declined an interview with Fusion, but said they have submitted a corrective action plan to the EPA to spend the remaining funds in a timely manner.
For now, some of the poorest people in California are stuck paying double for clean water.
“This is America, the United States. Why would people have to put up with that?,” says Chris Kemper, the principal at Stone Corral Elementary, where the water is undrinkable. “We’re not talking about boxes, we’re talking about human beings that we’re delivering this water to. And people in this day and age find that acceptable. I think it’s sad.”
On November 20, 2013, members of the AGUA coalition and CWC allies hosted an environmental justice tour in Orange Center for the head of the US EPA.
By Tony Barboza and Jessica Garrison
(11/21/2013) The head of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency said Thursday that she was disappointed by the slow progress state, federal and local governments have made in bringing potable drinking water to small towns in the San Joaquin Valley.
“We’ve got rural communities that don’t have clean water and there’s no plan on how to get it to them,” EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy said in a meeting with Los Angeles Times editors and reporters.
McCarthy’s comments follow the federal government’s threat this spring to cut off clean drinking water funding because state officials have been sitting on more than $455 million in unspent federal money. The EPA also faulted the state Department of Public Health for a lack of financial accountability with the funds.
Residents and activists in small communities across the state said they were forced to pay for bottled water as fixes to what came out of their pipes were delayed year after year because of red tape.
This summer, the state public health agency issued a 16-page plan to improve the distribution of federal money, including a pledge to distribute more than $800 million over the next three fiscal years — four times as much as in the last three.
McCarthy’s remarks came during a three-day visit to California, her first since taking over as the nation’s top environmental regulator in July. She also discussed the Obama administration’s push to battle climate change by regulating carbon dioxide emissions from new power plants and an upcoming rule that will assert the EPA’s jurisdiction over the nation’s water bodies under the Clean Water Act.
The EPA announced this week that it had awarded California $174 million in federal funding to invest in water infrastructure projects, including $79 million to the public health department for the drinking water fund.
“Things are looking up,” said Jennifer Clary, program associate for the group Clean Water Action. Still, she said, significant challenges remain for communities seeking potable water. The drinking water fund may not be spent on operations and maintenance of water infrastructure, so even if a town is able to install treatment systems, it could be prohibitively expensive to operate them.
McCarthy’s visit included stops in San Francisco and the Fresno area, where she met with farmers and activists about water and air quality concerns. On Thursday, she walked along the Los Angeles River with Mayor Eric Garcetti before touring the Port of Long Beach and a recycling facility in Wilmington.
The day before, McCarthy visited an elementary school in Orange Center, a community near Fresno that lacks a centralized water system or sewer system and is organizing to fix that. Well monitoring has shown high levels of nitrates and, in some cases, uranium. So for now, the school uses bottled water.
In an interview later Thursday, McCarthy said bringing safe drinking water to such communities should be a priority for all levels of government. The EPA, she said, has been working to “try to make sure that federal funds are spent wisely and focused well.”
“We need to make sure that the state implements effectively,” said Jared Blumenfeld, the EPA’s regional administrator. “I think they’re on track to do that.”
Experts have offered differing estimates of how many people in California do not have access to safe drinking water. Earlier this year, the state’s public health agency put the number at about 200,000 people at any one time who are served by a water system that violates state health standards. But some legislators say the number is as high as 2.1 million when communities not served by publicly regulated water systems are counted.