Community Water Center

Community-driven water solutions through organizing, education, and advocacy

Three-Year Water Study Highlights Local Challenges and Solutions

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
September 8, 2014

Contact:
Maria Herrera, Community Advocacy Director, Community Water Center
559-733-0219 (office) or Maria.Herrera@CommunityWaterCenter.org

Denise England, Sr. Administrative Analyst, Water Resources, Tulare County Administrative Office
559-636-5005 (office) or dnakins@co.tulare.ca.us


Three-Year Water Study Highlights Local Challenges and Solutions

Tulare Lake Basin stakeholders aim to implement solutions for communities that lack safe drinking water

Visalia – Tomorrow, the Tulare County Board of Supervisors will review the final report from the Disadvantaged Community Water Study for the Tulare Lake Basin.

In May 2011, the County of Tulare received a two million dollar grant from the California Department of Water Resources to study the water and wastewater needs of disadvantaged communities in the Tulare Lake Basin and to develop a plan to address these communities’ needs.

The three-year study engaged hundreds of residents and interested parties from Fresno, Kern, Kings and Tulare Counties. The study resulted in a 250-page final report, as well as a comprehensive database of disadvantaged communities in the region.

“We started this study because we knew our communities were being disproportionately impacted by water challenges, but we didn’t have a concrete inventory of needs to validate what we were seeing on the ground,” said Maria Herrera, Community Advocacy Director at the Community Water Center (CWC). “This study allowed us to assess the magnitude of the problem and begin to identify possible solutions to address the common challenges within the region.”

The study identified 354 disadvantaged communities in the four-county Tulare Lake Basin region. These communities are home to 280,000 individuals.

Forty-five percent of the 196 communities with available water quality data had a water quality problem during the two-year analysis period. Over one quarter of the 354 communities rely on a single water supply source, leaving them vulnerable to drought and changes in water quality.

The final report (available here: bit.ly/1lOjQfE) outlines the challenges, promising solutions, and 59 specific recommendations for actions local water providers, counties, state agencies, and others should take to address disadvantaged community drinking water challenges in the region. These results were identified as part of strong community outreach and stakeholder engagement processes.

As part of a region-wide Stakeholder Oversight Advisory Committee (SOAC), community and local agency representatives worked with regulatory and funding agency representatives to determine priority issues, review pilot projects, and evaluate project recommendations.

“We developed a very hands-on, three-tiered stakeholder involvement process, so on average, almost 50 people participated in SOAC meetings,” said Laurel Firestone, CWC Co-Executive Director and Co-Founder. “Throughout the process, we strove to ensure strong stakeholder feedback, and that was true all the way through our last SOAC meeting. It is people and local and state agencies that are going to have to put this study to use, so local stakeholder engagement was a key aspect of the study process.”

At the final SOAC meeting in August, participants committed to continue meeting to address common water issues in the region. “We should carry forward with a grant application for the Tulare Lake Basin to keep this group going and see if we can set a good example for the rest of the state,” said Tulare County Supervisor Allen Ishida.

Pilot projects were developed to address the five priority issues facing disadvantaged communities in the region, including: a lack of funding to offset operation and management costs; a lack of capacity by water and wastewater providers; poor water quality; inadequate funding for improvements; and a lack of informed, empowered, or engaged residents. The four pilot projects developed in response to these challenges included management non-infrastructure solutions, technical solutions, new source development and individual household treatment solutions.

If approved by the Board of Supervisors, the study will be sent to the Department of Water Resources for review, and a final report will be delivered to the Legislature by January 1st.

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