Community Water Center

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

January 2018 CWLN Newsletter

Announcements:

Happy New Year Community Water Leaders!

As a reminder, the January Network Briefing call is cancelled. Members of the Community Water Leaders Network Steering Committee will be meeting on Friday, February 9th from 4-6:30PM in the Visalia office, 900 W Oak Ave, Visalia, CA.  If you’re interested in joining the steering committee meeting to give input on 2018 CWLN goals and priorities, please let me know!

 

Water Justice Leadership Awards

Date: Wednesday, February 7th, 2018

Time: 5:30-8:00PM

Location: Mayahuel, 1200 K Street, Sacramento, CA 95814

Join us as we come together with community partners, legislative allies, and ally organizations that have all contributed to the water justice movement, like yourself! There will be a short awards ceremony followed by an opportunity to connect with Sacramento partners over food and drinks. At the event, we will highlight the Community Water Leaders Network and will recognize members as a collective group on stage. More information on tickets can be found here. Look forward to seeing you all!

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Integrated Regional Water Management (IRWM) Disadvantaged Community (DAC)

Involvement Grant update

The Prop 1 Integrated Regional Water Management (IRWM) Disadvantaged Community Involvement Grant awarded $3.4million to the Tulare-Kern region to support the involvement of disadvantaged communities in IRWM planning efforts. IRWM planning groups are voluntary collaborations between local agencies to promote regional water management efforts and to implement different water projects.

 

The County of Tulare, who is the lead applicant for this grant, has sent the revised grant agreement for the Disadvantaged Community Involvement Program grant to the State Water Board and the agreement is scheduled to be signed in late February. Once the the agreement is signed, DAC representatives from 7 IRWM groups will form a Project Advisory Committee that will help give guidance to the grant goals and potential projects. The 7 IRWM groups involved in this grant effort are: Kaweah River Basin IRWM Group, Kern County IRWM Group, Kings Basin Water Authority, Poso Creek IRWM Group, Southern Sierra IRWM Group, Tule River Basin IRWM Group, Westside-San Joaquin IRWM Group. Counties and environmental justice groups, like CWC, are also involved in this grant. The first meeting of the PAC is likely to take place in March.

 

While the PAC is waiting to be formed, now is a great time to revisit the Tulare Lake Basin DAC Study and review the list of recommendations outlined in the report.

 


Governor Brown’s Proposed Budget Water Highlights

We started the year off on a positive note with the Governor Brown’s proposed budget prioritizing water interests! In the proposed budget Governor Brown prioritizes California’s commitment to safe and affordable drinking water consistent with the policy framework of SB 623. This commitment includes $4.7 million for the State Water Board and the Department of Food and Agriculture to take steps towards implementing the Safe and Affordable Drinking Water Fund. While we still have more work to do to continue building momentum in support of SB 623, having the states priorities aligned with our efforts signifies a positive turning point!

 

Addition water highlights included in the proposed budget include:

  • Safe Drinking Water Projects -- $63 million from SB 5 for the State Water Board to provide grants to public water systems in disadvantaged communities for infrastructure improvements to meet safe and affordable drinking water standards, including both drinking water and wastewater treatment projects. Of this amount, $27 million is available to improve regional water supply within the San Joaquin River watershed.
  • SGMA Implementation -- $61.8 million from SB 5 for DWR to support groundwater sustainability agencies through three key efforts: (1) providing technical assistance to aid in the development and evaluation of their plans, (2) supplementing existing planning grants to support a groundwater sustainability agency's responsibility to define a path to achieve sustainable groundwater management, and (3) providing grants directly supporting implementation of groundwater projects
  • Groundwater Treatment—$84 million from SB 5 for the State Water Board to support regional groundwater treatment and remediation activities that prevent or reduce contamination of groundwater that serves as a source of drinking water, including $10 million for technical assistance for drought and groundwater investments.

Access the full proposed budget here: http://www.ebudget.ca.gov/FullBudgetSummary.pdf

 


CWC hosting CV SALTS Presentations

CV SALTS stands for Central Valley Salinity Alternatives for Long Term Solutions and is a coalition of agricultural, industry, regulatory, and environmental justice groups that have been doing studies for over 10 years to create a plan for how to address nitrate and salinity in the Central Valley. CWC, with a grant from the State Water Resources Control Board (SWRCB), has prepared an educational PowerPoint presentation about groundwater quality and potential funding sources to address water quality issues. Specifically, it describes the CV SALTS process that examined nitrate and salinity contamination in Northern Tulare County. CWC will be making presentations to various stakeholders groups throughout the year. If you think your water board or city council would benefit from learning more about this process of addressing nitrates and salinity, please let Adriana know.


State and Legislative updates:

2017 was the first year of the two year 2017-2018 legislative session. The Legislature considered a total of 2,980 bills during 2017 dealing with almost every topic imaginable. A small but meaningful number of those bills were related to various aspects of water. Any bills that do not pass during the first legislative year and that are not procedurally held from moving forward become what is known as “two-year” bills, and are eligible for consideration again in 2018. An example of a two-year bill is SB 623. A number of legislative proposals considered in 2017 will likely come back again in 2018, and multiple entirely new legislative proposals will be introduced as well. CWC will share further information about any critical water bills as they are introduced in the coming weeks.


State Water Board in process of adopting East San Joaquin Coalition Irrigated Lands Regulatory Program (ILRP) Order

As a refresher, the Irrigated Lands Regulatory Program (ILRP) regulates irrigated agriculture in California to reduce or prevent water contamination due to farming practices. Over the years CWC and the AGUA Coalition have stayed closely involved in the ILRP process as several San Joaquin Valley communities have lacked safe drinking water due to ongoing nitrate contamination, some for decades.


The State Water Board is wrapping up the process to adopt a revised ILRP Order for the East San Joaquin Coalition Order, which manages irrigated lands in the East San Joaquin Watershed. Most, but not all, of the East San Joaquin Order is precedential. What this means is that all of the concepts identified as precedential that will be adopted in the East San Joaquin Coalition Order also have to be included in all other ILRP Orders throughout the state. There is an adoption hearing on February 7th in Sacramento and we will continue to work alongside our community partners and allies to ensure a strong Order that will result in the continued sustainability of the Central Valley. A map of the ILRP Coalitions is shown below and the East San Joaquin Order is identified as 5 in green.

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Map of ILRP Coalition Boundaries.


Ruling on Prop 26 May Affect SGMA Implementation –

City of Buenaventura v. United Water Conservation District


At the start of December, the California Supreme Court issued a new ruling on Prop 26 which provides some guidance on how groundwater fees may be assessed and appears to provide protections for non-agricultural groundwater users. As background, Prop 26 was passed after Prop 218 in order to increase the protection for voters from tax increases by local agencies. Prop 218 provides that before taxes or fees related to property ownership (such as water or sewer fees) are increased they must be subject to voter approval and must be proportional to cost of service. Prop 26 expands the definition of “tax” to include any charge by a local government, not specifically limited to those charges related to property ownership. Charges that confer a special benefit to someone for a governmental service or product, as opposed to general revenue raising, are not subject to Prop 26 so long as they bear fair or reasonable relationship to the benefit to the person paying the fees. The aftermath of these two propositions is that taxes are defined as something which is for general revenue raising purposes, whereas a fee is related to a specific benefit given to the payer.

In the recent case, the City of Ventura sued the local water conservation district arguing the groundwater fees imposed upon the City by the District were in violation of both Prop 218’s requirement that fees are proportional to cost of service and in violation of Prop 26’s requirement that fees “bear a fair or reasonable relationship to the benefit to the payer”. The fees imposed on the City by the District were created to be in compliance with Water Code Section 75594 which states conservation districts cannot charge agricultural groundwater users less than three times and no more than five times the fees imposed on non-agricultural users. The Court held that the Prop 218 argument was not relevant since the fees were not related to the City’s property ownership, but instead held that the groundwater fees paid by the City to the District are subject to Prop 26 and sent the case back to the appeals court to determine if the fees do “bear a fair or reasonable relationship” to the benefit the City receives from the District.

How this impacts SGMA is still murky, however, there are a few key points that can be taken from the case: 1) Groundwater charges not-related to property ownership are not subject to Prop 218 and instead are covered by the less demanding Prop 26; 2) Previously Prop 26 was interpreted to mean that fees must comply on a parcel by parcel basis but the Court grants local governments a measure of flexibility in setting fees, stating when a district is implementing a “statutorily mandated conservation program, cost allocations for services provided are to be judged by a standard of reasonableness with some flexibility permitted to account for systemwide complexity.’”[emphasis added] Meaning similar users could be grouped together for the sake of setting fees. 3) The court hinted that Water Code Section 75594’s requirement that agricultural groundwater rates must be at least three times less than other uses (three-to-one rule) may violate Prop 26, but declined to rule on the matter, leaving the door open for another lawsuit. If at a later date the three-to-one rule is determined to be in violation of Prop 26, this will make it very difficult, if not impossible, to charge agricultural users of groundwater less than other users. Finally, since SGMA authorizes different types of fees and charges, GSAs will need to analyze their proposed fees to determine what type of fee or charge it is and thus whether Prop 218 or Prop 26, if either, apply.


Featured Resource of the Month –

Groundwater Sustainability Plan (GSP) Initial Notification System

The Department of Water Resources (DWR) has released a new tool called the Groundwater Sustainability Plan (GSP) Initial Notification System. Groundwater Sustainability Agencies (GSAs) have to use this system to send the notification that they intend to start working on their plan. So far 31 GSAs have begun working on their GSPs and the majority of GSAs in the Southern San Joaquin Valley have already submitted notifications. The public can also use this tool to publicly share comments or concerns related to their Groundwater Sustainability Agency’s GSP development process. When a public comment is posted, it can be seen on the Sustainable Groundwater Management Act (SGMA) Portal and it will be shared with the GSA, the DWR Regional Office, and the DWR Sacramento Office. All comments must be related to the GSP development process. If you have concerns about your GSA’s GSP development process and you have voiced your concerns with your GSA and have not seen efforts to address your concerns, you can use this tool to publically keep a record of the issue. Alternatively, also feel free to contact Adriana anytime you have concerns as well.

To learn more about this tool, visit DWR’s webpage: http://water.ca.gov/groundwater/sgm/gsp_in.cfm  


Upcoming events:

Date: 1/31. Time: 8AM-12PM. Event: Grant Funding and Infrastructure Planning. Location: Arvin (location TBD). Cost: $175 for non-Cal Rural Water Association members. More info: https://calruralwater.org/product/grant-funding-and-infrastructure-planning-2/

Date: 2/1. Time: 10AM-12PM. Event: Financial Management Small Water Systems. Location: Online. Cost:Free. More info here: https://www.events.rcac.org/images/rcac/pdfs/SRFCA%20Brochure%202018%20Jan-June.pdf

Dates: 2/7-2/8. Time: 8AM-3PM. Event: USABlueBook Water Treatment and Distribution. Location: Visalia (Location TBD). Cost: $175 for non-Cal Rural Water Association members. More info here: https://calruralwater.org/product/usabluebook-water-treatment-and-distribution-tools/


Date: 2/15. Time: 10AM-12PM. Event: Creating Operation and Maintenance Plans. Location: Online. Cost: Free. Register here: https://www.events.rcac.org/assnfe/ev.asp?ID=1244


Date: 2/22. Time: 10AM-12PM. Event: What You Need to Know about the New Groundwater Management Act. Location: Online. Cost: Free. Register here: https://www.events.rcac.org/assnfe/ev.asp?ID=1246


Date: 2/23. Time: 8:30-5PM. Event: Water Foundation Water 101. Location: McGeorge School of Law in Classroom C, 3200 5th Ave, Sacramento, CA, 95817. Cost: $225 + fees. More info: http://www.watereducation.org/foundation-event/water-101-workshop-basics-and-beyond-1

 

Find more events on our Community Water Leaders online calendar found at:

http://www.communitywatercenter.org/water_leaders_network.


Reminders:

1-2-3 TCP Maximum Contaminant Level (MCL) In Effect

On December 14, 2017, the State Water Board approved an early effective date for the maximum contaminant level (MCL) of contaminant 1,2,3-Trichloropropane (1,2,3-TCP), which is the cancer causing chemical that has caused contamination of California soil since the 80s due to extensive application of soil fumigants manufactured by Dow and Shell Chemicals. Water systems are required to start quarterly monitoring for 1,2,3-TCP in the calendar quarter beginning January 2018. Water systems may be allowed to use previously collected samples for up to three quarters in order to meet the initial monitoring requirements. More information about initial monitoring substitutions can be found in Subsection 64445(i) or by contacting your local Division of Drinking Water District Office.

If your system is impacted by 123-TCP, in order to obtain cost recovery your system needs to obtain legal representation in order to sue the responsible parties, Shell and Dow Chemicals, for 1-2-3 TCP contamination. Robins Borghei LLP is the primary firm litigating 123 TCP cases and has a strong track record in winning cases on behalf of communities dealing with 1-2-3 TCP contamination. Litigation can take anywhere from a year to 3 or more years, so if you are impacted by 1-2-3 TCP and are in need of financial assistance to come into compliance with the new MCL, there are funding sources at the state available for eligible entities. The primary funding source is the Drinking Water State Revolving Fund (DWSRF), and the Prop 1 Groundwater Grant Fund is also a secondary option to cover instances where the DWSRF doesn’t cover. In order to qualify for state funding sources you will likely be required to show you are initiating efforts to recover costs from the responsible parties. For any questions, contact the State Water Resources Control Board.

 

$9.5 million in grant funding available through the Drinking Water for Schools Program

This program can be used install water bottle filling stations or drinking water fountains, and for interim water supplies and treatment devices for schools where contamination is an issue. Contact Rural Community Assistance Corporation at agua4all@rcac.org for more information on how to apply.


Do you have any questions about this newsletter or the Community Water Leaders Network?Contact Kristin Dobbin at 559-733-0219 or kristin.dobbin@communitywatercenter.org

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