Kern County Opportunity to Shape Statewide Water Affordability Program
The State Water Board seeks public input on a Water Affordability Program for California
Visalia, CA – The State Water Resources Control Board will be in Bakersfield this Wednesday, November 9, at the Junior League Community Center to gather public input on a proposed statewide water affordability program. The meeting, one of five held around the state this fall, is the first step toward shaping a program that will ensure all Californians have affordable drinking water.
Although Californians are legally guaranteed the human right to safe, clean, affordable and accessible water, many communities in California face exceedingly high water rates. A study by the Community Water Center and its partners found that thousands of households in the San Joaquin Valley had unaffordable water rates. Some families were paying up to 10 percent of their monthly income on water alone.
As a result of Assembly Bill 401 (Dodd), which passed last year, the State Water Board is now required to develop a plan for a Low-Income Water Rate Assistance Program. The Board has begun its scoping by holding a series of public meetings to seek recommendations.
"Our farmworkers are the backbone of California's agriculture and economy, yet so many families face challenges paying for water, and in many communities, the water is not even safe to drink," said Janaki Jagannath, Coordinator of the Delano-based Community Alliance for Agroecology.
At the first workshop in Fresno, several residents commented on how factors such as unemployment, disability, and limited income increase the difficulty of paying for water to meet one’s basic needs.
In the Central Valley, treatment of groundwater contaminated by agricultural practices and other pollution sources can cause water bills to become very expensive for low-income residents. In communities that have been unable to afford water treatment, residents often purchase bottled water, further adding to their drinking water costs.
State Water Board staff have encouraged widespread public participation in the meetings. Advocacy groups are working to ensure the low-income residents most impacted by water affordability challenges are able to attend the meetings.
"The State Water Board needs to hear from all stakeholders, but especially from the low-income residents most impacted by unaffordable water rates,” said Asha Kreiling, Policy and Communications Analyst at the Community Water Center. “We are encouraging Valley residents to participate in the process to ensure that paying for drinking water is no longer a burden."
The State Water Board is required to submit a water affordability plan to the California Legislature by February 2018. Until then, the agency will continue to solicit input from residents and other stakeholders on how best to provide assistance to low-income residents.
About The Community Water Center
The Community Water Center (CWC) is a non-profit environmental justice organization based in California’s San Joaquin Valley, whose mission is to act as a catalyst for community-driven water solutions through organizing, education, and advocacy. CWC’s fundamental goal is to ensure that all communities have access to safe, clean, and affordable water. CWC helps build strategic grassroots capacity to address water challenges in small, rural, low-income communities and communities of color. For more information, visit CWC’s website at www.communitywatercenter.org and follow us on Twitter at @CWaterC.