Water Rates and Affordability Roundtable Recap
On May 23, 2017 water board members/staff, Technical Assistance providers and the State Water Board gathered to discuss water affordability at our second Community Water Leaders Network Roundtable.
We kicked-off the evening discussing SB 623, a bill that would provide sustainable funding for small water systems including help with Operations & Maintenance expenses. Community Water Center’s Policy Director Jonathan Nelson shared different ways local water systems can get involved in the effort including passing resolutions of support, sending letters, talking with their representatives and talking to media.
Community Water Leaders Network members at the May roundtable on affordability.
For the rest of the evening we focused on AB 401. AB 401 is a law, passed in 201, that requires the State Water Resources Control Board to develop and submit a plan for a low-income rate assistance program for water to the legislature by early 2018. After a series of public workshops and an economic analysis performed by UCLA, Max Gomberg, Climate and Conservation Manager for the Water Board, reported that the Board was primarily considering three key program features 1) Eligibility: The number and type of households that will qualify 2) Household Benefit: The type and amount of benefit those qualified will receive and 3) The total program costs: Which equal the number of eligible households multiplied by the benefit level. Based on these program features, they have developed four scenarios for discussion purposes.
- Scenario 1 - All state households below 200% of the Federal Poverty Line receive a 20% discount on their water bills
- Scenario 2 - All State households below 200% of the Federal Poverty Line and paying less than $100 on their monthly water bill receive a 20% discount, households below 200% of the Federal Poverty Line paying $100 or more on their monthly water bill receive a 25% discount.
- Scenario 3 - All state households below 200% of the Federal Poverty Line who are not served by a Public Utilities Commission regulated water system with an existing affordability program, receive a 20% discount.
- Scenario 4 - All state households below 200% of the Federal Poverty Line who are served by a water system not currently offering a compliant affordability program are enrolled in a state program to receive a 20% discount.
In late June and July, the State Board will be conducting a second round of workshops similar to the one we received to get feedback on these four options. They will also be accepting comments on the four scenarios through the end of July. You can send written comments to Mary Yang at Mary.Yang@waterboards.ca.gov or call her at (916) 322-6507. Hopefully by the end of the year they will present a plan with recommendations to the legislature. At that point it will be up to lawmakers and the governor to decide if they would like move forward legislation on the topic.
Reduced Annual Fees for DAC Public Water Systems
On May 15, 2017 the State Water Resources Control Board Division of Drinking Water issued a letter to Community Public Water Systems informing them of the possibility of reducing their Annual Fee if the system serves a Disadvantaged Community (DAC).
If you qualify (the Median Household Income in your community is less than $49,454), the reduced fee for your water system will be based on the number of connections that you serve. Systems serving fewer than 100 connections will pay $100. Systems serving 15,000 connections or less will pay $100 plus $2 for each service connection greater than 100.
If you believe your water system is eligible and wish to receive a reduced Annual Fee, submit a request in the form of a signed letter and include information demonstrating that your community meets the definition of a Disadvantaged Community, the DDW will respond.
You can find the letter they sent here. If you have any questions, contact your District Engineer.
Resource of the Month - Legal Technical Assistance from UC Davis’ Water Justice Clinic
Recently, the U.C. Davis Martin Luther King Jr. School of Law launched a Water Justice legal clinic designed to advocate for clean, healthy and adequate water supplies for all Californians. The director of the clinic, Camille Pannu, may be familiar to some Valley Water Leaders, as she used to work on environmental justice cases as a legal fellow for the Center on Race, Poverty & the Environment in Delano.
Through the Proposition 1 water bond, the Water Justice Clinic received a three-year grant from the State Water Resources Control Board Office of Sustainable Water Solutions to provide legal services. Indeed, the Clinic is the primary legal services provider among the organizations funded by Proposition 1 Technical Assistance grants.
To receive help from the clinic a Technical Assistance request needs to be made to the State Water Board. This can be done by another Technical Assistance provider, if you are already working with one. This can also be done directly by working with Camille. One important restriction to keep in mind, is that to be eligible for these services, the proposed legal work needs to be related to a future or current capital improvement project in your community.
Don’t Miss our Next Network Briefing: June 22, 4-5 PM
1. Member updates and questions
2. Regional and state updates and questions
3. Monthly discussion topic: Annual reports/CCRs, AB 401 input
Upcoming Events and Trainings:
- June 20. 9:00 AM - 12:00 PM. Department of Water Resources County Drought Contingency Planning Workshop. Online Webinar. More info.
- June 27. 6:00 - 8:00 PM. State Water Resources Control Board AB 401 Public Workshop. Millennium Charter High School in Salinas.
- June 27. 10:00 AM - 12:00 PM or 2:00 - 4:00 PM. Online RCAC Training: Energy Efficiency. Register for free at www.events.rcac.org.
- June 29-30. Environmental Finance Center Network Workshop. Leadership through decision-making and communication workshop for small water systems in Rancho Cucamonga. Register for free at http://efcnetwork.org/events/california-leadership- decision-making-communication- workshop-small-water-systems/.
- July 11. 10:00 AM - 12:00 PM. Online RCAC training: Basic Operations for Board Members. Register for free at www.events.rcac.org.
- July 17. 10:00 AM - 12:00 PM. Online RCAC Training: AB 54 & AB 240 Ethics for Mutual Water Company Board Members. Register for free at www.events.rcac.org.
- July 18. 2:00 - 3:00 PM. Environmental Finance Center Network webinar: Telling Your Water Story. Register for free at http://efcnetwork.org/events/webinar-messaging-water-stakeholders-2/.
- July 20. 2:00 - 3:00 PM. Environmental Finance Center Network webinar: Messaging Water to Your Stakeholders. Register for free at http://efcnetwork.org/events/webinar-messaging-water-stakeholders-2/.
- July 20. 9:30 AM - 12:00 PM. Clean Water State Revolving Fund Policy and Prioritization Workshop. Southern California Edison Energy Education Center Learning Center (4175 S. Laspina Street Tulare, CA 93274). Register for free at cwsrfpolicyworkshops.eventbrite.com.
Find more events on our Community Water Leaders online calendar found at http://www.communitywatercenter.org/water_leaders_network.
Mid-Session Legislative Update
We are more than half-way through this legislative session and many of the water bills that we have been following are still alive and making their way through the lawmaking process. Here is the latest on some key bills that could, if passed, impact local water systems:
SB 623 (Monning): SB 623, which would establish a new Safe and Affordable Drinking Water Fund to be housed at the State Water Resources Control Board, passed out of the Senate at the end of May. The bill will now move to the Assembly for consideration. The Fund, once implemented, would be used to meet long-standing gaps in funding such as operation and maintenance costs that have prevented so many communities from being able to provide reliable safe drinking water to their constituents.
AB 560 (Salas): AB 560 is intended to formalize the State Water Resources Control Board’s authority to provide water systems serving SDACs principal forgiveness/grants and 0% financing for water projects through Drinking Water State Revolving Fund if paying back loans would increase water rates to unaffordable levels. A few months ago the draft Intended Use Plan for the fund was released and it included most of the changes proposed by AB 560. It is unclear if after the formal adoption of the IUP, this bill will be dropped by the author or not.
SB 427 (Leyva): SB 427 would require a public water system to provide a timeline for replacement of known lead user service lines in its distribution system to the State Water Board by July 1, 2020. This bill moves on to Assembly Environmental Safety and Toxic Materials Committee next.
AB 277 (Mathis): AB 27 would establish the Water and Wastewater Loan and Grant Fund to allow counties and nonprofits to provide low-interest loans and grants to eligible applicants for drinking water needs and wastewater treatment while still having centralized oversight from the State Water Resources Control Board. This bill will be heard next in the Senate Environmental Quality Committee.
SB 252 (Dodd): SB 252 creates additional requirements on people applying to drill new wells (not replacement wells or domestic wells) within critically overdrafted basins such as requiring neighbors to be notified, requiring public hearings, and requiring a public comment period. This bill is heading next to Water, Parks, and Wildlife Committee, as well as to the Local Government committee and will likely face some steep opposition ahead.
Submit your Application to Join the Project Advisory Committee (PAC) for the Tulare Lake Basin Disadvantaged Community Involvement Project
The Tulare Lake Basin Disadvantaged Community Involvement Project is a $3.4 million grant-funded effort that aims to support the long-term water planning needs and improve the participation of Disadvantaged Communities (DACs) in Integrated Regional Water Management (IRWM) in Fresno, Kings, Tulare and Kern Counties. The Project is funded by the Department of Water Resources (DWR) through the Proposition 1 Disadvantaged Community Involvement Program and will be administered locally by the County of Tulare.
IRWM planning, as you probably remember, is a statewide voluntary water planning effort that seeks to incentivize regional collaboration between local agencies in order to promote regional water management and the implementation of multi-benefit projects. The Department of Water Resources is responsible for administering the IRWM program and awards certain state funds only to IRWM groups.
The Tulare Lake Basin Disadvantaged Community Involvement project will fund the following activities:
- Needs Assessment of all communities within the TLB area. The needs assessment will include an evaluation of the community characteristics, drinking water, wastewater, stormwater and other water related needs.
- Project Development, to help communities develop shovel-ready projects that will be competitive to receive planning or construction funding, e.g. engineering, environmental documents, application preparation and more.
- DAC Engagement and Education Program. Possible activities include community meetings, training workshops and educational tours/field trips.
- Project Administration and Reporting Tasks
Additionally, the project will fund third-party facilitation for a Project Advisory Committee (PAC). The PAC will be a diverse stakeholder group of IRWM, DAC and Tribal representatives. The role of the PAC is to oversee the project, guide the project team, and make key decisions during the implementation of the program. PAC members will help ensure this project is successful be developing program guidelines, identifying common water needs within the region and opportunities to develop multi-benefit and regional projects/solutions and reviewing and ranking proposals for project development.
The Tulare Lake Basin Disadvantaged Community Involvement project creates a unique opportunity to meet the long-term water planning needs, and improve the participation of Disadvantaged Communities (DACs) in Integrated Regional Water Management (IRWM). We need DAC representatives like you to participate on the PAC in order to ensure the project is successful! If you are interested in applying to serve on the PAC, talk to your local IRWM group or contact Community Water Center or Self-Help Enterprises.
Do you have any questions about this newsletter or the Community Water Leaders Network?
Contact Kristin Dobbin at 559-733-0219 or firstname.lastname@example.org.