Community Water Center

Community-driven water solutions through organizing, education, and advocacy
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2017 Legislative Wins and looking forward!

SB 623 (Monning): Safe and Affordable Drinking Water Fund

As we have shared before, CWC’s top legislative priority is SB 623 which would create a new Safe and Affordable Drinking Water Fund to ensure all California communities and those on domestic wells can have access to safe drinking water. In partnership with Senator Monning and over 90 other organizations, CWC has worked hard in 2017 to move SB 623 through the Legislative Process. YOU played a critical role by attending lobbying days in Sacramento, passing resolutions of support through your local water board, making phone calls, and taking other forms of action. Thank you for making your voice heard.

While we have made great progress this year in moving SB 623 from the Senate into the Assembly, Senator Monning and stakeholders have decided to wait until next year to proceed with SB 623. This will allow for sufficient time to educate the legislative membership, and the public, to fully understand recent amendments made to the legislation and the importance of the policy to address the statewide problem of contaminated water in California.

We will continue building power and momentum over the coming months and will take up the fight again in January when the legislature reconvenes. Please stay tuned -- we will need you to remain engaged and taking action in order to push SB 623 over the finish line. Thank you!

AB 560 (Salas): State Water Board, funding assistance

CWC partnered with Assemblymember Salas from Bakersfield to pass AB 560, which broadens the guidelines for the Drinking Water State Revolving Fund (DWSRF) to allow larger systems whose service area qualifies as a severely disadvantaged community (SDAC) to apply for grant funding, if paying off a loan would result in unaffordable water rates. The bill also sets the affordability metric at 1.5% of the median household income. AB 560 improves the types of financial assistance that larger (but still small) communities like Arvin access through the DWSRF. This represents a modest improvement, but a far more important next step is to pass SB 623. We hope Assemblymember Salas will be a strong partner with CWC to fight for passage of SB 623 in 2018.

AB 1668 (Friedman): Drought and Water Supply Vulnerability

CWC worked with a coalition of water and environmental organizations to advocate for AB 1668, which includes a requirement that the Department of Water Resources (DWR) to develop recommended guidelines for county-level drought contingency planning for small water systems and rural communities. The bill also included a requirement that DWR use available data to identify small water suppliers and rural communities that may be at risk of drought and water shortage vulnerability, and then notify counties and local groundwater sustainability agencies of those suppliers or communities that may be at risk within its jurisdiction, and make the information publicly accessible on its Internet Web site. The legislative authors decided to make AB 1668 a two-year bill and continue working on the legislation next year. This gives CWC and other allies more time to educate decision makers and the public about the importance of proactive drought and water vulnerability planning.

2017-2018 State Budget: Emergency Drinking Water Needs

A coalition of environmental justice and other advocates that included CWC were successful in securing funding through the 2017-2018 state budget for emergency drinking water needs. This included $8 million for the State Water Board for emergency replacement of domestic wells and other emergency drinking water needs, $4 million for DWR for emergency needs, and $5 million for a CalFResh water benefit pilot.

Comments Submitted for AB 401

ab_401.jpgCommunity Water Center joined with Pacific Institute, Clean Water Action, and other organizations to submit a comment letter on the implementation of AB 401, legislation passed in 2015 that directs the State Water Resources Control Board to propose a plan for a statewide low-income rate assistance (LIRA) program for water. Water is becoming increasingly unaffordable as water rates rise, costs for other basic necessities rise, and incomes stagnate, as documented in a recent Circle of Blue article.

This fall, the State Water Resources Control Board will work on the plan to propose to the legislature by February 1, 2018. Community Water Center will continue to stay involved in the process as environmental justice stakeholders and will work to ensure that the needs of small rural communities are part of the conversation.

California Budget Takes Steps to Address State’s Drinking Water Crisis




June 16, 2017


Dawn Van Dyke, (916) 447-2854 x 1011,
Jonathan Nelson, (530) 848-4460,

Advocates say they will continue to push for sustainable statewide funding
 source including SB 623 (Monning)

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. 



Increased Access to Funding for Drinking Water Projects in Severely Disadvantaged Communities is Adopted at State Board


CONTACT: Debi Ores, (916)706-3346,  


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.


They Built It, But Couldn’t Afford To Run It—Clean Drinking Water Fight Focuses On Gaps In Funding


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.



Governor's Revised Budget Does Not Adequately Address Drinking Water Crisis Affecting One Million Californians


CONTACT: Jenny Rempel, (559) 284-6327 (cell),  

Dawn Van Dyke, (916) 447-2854 x 1011,

Matt Davis, (510) 717-1617 (cell),

Advocates Say Administration and Legislature Must Create a Sustainable Funding Source to Guarantee Safe Water

Sacramento, CA | May 12, 2017 -- Water justice advocates and environmental, health, rural, and equity organizations were dismayed that the Governor’s revised budget does not go far enough to address the state’s drinking water crisis. Almost five years after the Governor signed into law the Human Right to Water, 300 communities and one million Californians – far more than the population of Flint, Michigan – still lack this basic human right.

The Governor’s January Budget stated, “Although much progress has been made, some disadvantaged communities rely on contaminated groundwater and lack the resources to operate and maintain their water systems to deliver safe and affordable water. The Administration is committed to working with the Legislature and stakeholders to address this issue.”

“California has been a leader on drinking water, but we have to commit sustained funding if we want to solve the crisis this year,” said Laurel Firestone, Co-Executive Director of Community Water Center.

The State Water Resources Control Board released data in February indicating that hundreds of California communities are not able to finance long-overdue drinking water solutions. Some communities have had arsenic flowing from their taps for over a decade.

“Safe drinking water has been a priority for this administration, but it's still not adequately addressed in the budget that just came out,” said Jennifer Clary, Water Programs Manager at Clean Water Action California.

Arsenic, nitrate, and disinfectant byproducts are the most commonly occurring contaminants. Drinking water with these contaminants can cause rashes, miscarriages, and even cancer.

“The Governor’s Administration has prioritized the issue in the past, and now is the year for the administration and the legislature to invest in a lasting funding solution to ensure every Californian has safe and affordable drinking water,” said Phoebe Seaton, Co-Executive Director of Leadership Counsel for Justice and Accountability.

“We need to double down our efforts to provide clean drinking water to children and contribute to their overall health and wellbeing,” said Kula Koenig, Government Relations Director, American Heart Association.

Funding for drought solutions remained at $5 million. However, even with the Governor’s recent declaration ending the state’s five year drought, advocates say this amount is not sufficient to meet many residents’ needs, primarily in small, low-income communities. In Central California alone, more than 1,000 residents are still without water. More funds are needed for emergency relief including statewide well replacement, permanent connections to public systems, well abandonment and debt relief.

“We appreciate that the Governor allocated modest funds for emergency relief. However, too many vulnerable Californians are still without access to drinking water,” said Stanley Keasling, RCAC’s chief executive officer. “For these residents, long-term drought impacts continue. Additional funding is critical to alleviating their suffering.”

“We are pleased that the Governor sees the need to address the lingering impacts of the drought on families who are still without running water at home,” said Tom Collishaw, Self-Help Enterprises’ President/Chief Executive Officer. “But having arsenic, nitrate or pesticides flowing from your tap is equally an emergency. We need state leaders to create a sustainable funding source this year to guarantee every Californian safe water.”



Resident Testimony Ensures that Senate Bill 623 Passes Unanimously in its First Senate Committee


Each year, a million Californians—well more than the population of Flint, Michigan—are impacted by unsafe drinking water.

On April 19th, dozens of community leaders from the San Joaquin Valley traveled up to Sacramento to speak out in support of Senate Bill 623, which would create a fund to ensure all Californians have safe and affordable drinking water.

Senate Bill 623 (by Senator Bill Monning) is now on its way to the Senate Appropriations Committee. As the bill heads to this committee, now is the time to tell the state legislature to support safe and affordable drinking water for all Californians.

California has always been a leader, and we have high standards in almost every area of public life. It’s time we caught up on drinking water.

Children are especially at risk. Drinking water with contaminants like arsenic and nitrate can cause rashes, miscarriages, and cancer. Some schools are having to spend their limited school budget on bottled water, just so that students can get an education without getting sick.

The lack of state funding for water system operation and maintenance expenses has left hundreds of small, low-income communities facing a terrible decision: raise rates to unaffordable levels, or leave the water untreated and unsafe?

Residents from Alpaugh, Lanare, Arvin, and other communities traveled to Sacramento speak out in support of legislative action this year to ensure safe and affordable drinking water for all.

Join Community Water Center, Clean Water Action, and Leadership Counsel for Justice and Accountability in voicing your support for safe and affordable drinking water!

EWG: Cancer Causing Pesticide Garbage Taints Tap Water for Millions in California


By: Bill Walker

Published on April 11, 2017

Read the full story and watch the video HERE

We are eager to be featured on the Environmental Working Group website in regards to the dangers of 1,2,3-TCP! Dow and Shell companies have been contaminating California's water supply with this known carcinogen for decades. It is essential that the State Water Board sets a strict maximum contaminant level on 1,2,3-TCP, and that it provides the necessary funding for impacted communities. 


ACLU: #123TCP – The Toxic Chemical in California's Tap Water


By: Kena Cador

Published on April 10, 2017

Read the full story HERE

We are looking forward to a hearing to be held in Sacramento on April 19, 2017 to testify about the dangers of 1,2,3-TCP, and to urge the State Water Board to adopt a strict MCL for the contaminant. 

1,2,3-Trichloropropane (TCP) is a known carcinogen that has contaminated a great deal of California's water supply for decades. The biggest impacts of this contaminant can be seen throughout the agriculture-rich Central Valley.


California Takes Strong Steps Toward Making Water Conservation a Way of Life

For Immediate Release

Kimiko Martinez, Natural Resources Defense Council, kmartinez@nrdc.org310-434-2344
Sara Aminzadeh, California Coastkeeper Alliance, sara@cacoastkeeper.org415-794-8422
Cynthia Koehler, WaterNow Alliance, ck@waternow.org415-515-0511

California Takes Strong Steps Toward Making Water Conservation a Way of Life

Reduced pressure on water supplies will enhance long-term water security and climate resiliency

SACRAMENTO, CA (April 7, 2017) —  State officials today released a comprehensive plan to formalize Governor Brown’s 2016 Executive Order on “Making Water Conservation a California Way of Life.”

The plan sets a strong path toward achieving the objectives of the order: using water more wisely, eliminating water waste, strengthening local drought resilience, improving agricultural water use efficiency and drought planning. It sets the stage for further Water Board work to ensure that all water is valued and used efficiently, including recycled water, and also prepares California for the realities of living with climate change, including more frequent droughts and floods similar to those we’ve seen recently.

The plan:

  • focuses on improving urban water efficiency, particularly for landscaping
  • eliminates wasteful practices and strengthens drought preparedness for cities, towns and rural communities
  • emphasizes local control and decision-making> by allowing each of the state’s 410 water utilities to work within a customized water budget based on population, land use, climate and other local factors that influence indoor and outdoor water use. Local utilities can choose how best to meet their targets, including through leak repair, offering rebates for more efficient showers and clothes washers, or helping customers transition to more climate appropriate landscapes

Following is a statement from Tracy Quinn, senior water policy analyst with Natural Resources Defense Council:
“Recent events at Oroville Dam and elsewhere statewide demonstrate the vulnerability of our water supply infrastructure, which can occur during both wet and dry periods, and reinforces the value of water efficiency regardless of the weather. Some of the easiest and least expensive ways to ensure that we have sustainable water supplies in the future is to increase water efficiency, fix leaks and eliminate wasteful practices like hosing down sidewalks. These are common sense fixes that mean more water for us in the long run.”

Following is a statement from Sara Aminzadeh, executive director of California Coastkeeper Alliance:
“The last five years have shown us that we can no longer take water for granted. This plan will help California end the cycle of lurching from one water crisis to the next and ensure our communities and economy can continue to thrive in an uncertain climate reality.”

Following is a statement from Cynthia Koehler, executive director of WaterNow Alliance: 
“Water use efficiency and innovation have huge potential in California, and the State’s conservation plan supports local water providers in their efforts to scale up these programs and make their communities more resilient and water secure – while keeping costs affordable for ratepayers.

Following is a statement from Heather Cooley, water program director at the Pacific Institute: 
“Californians have made major water conservation and efficiency improvements over the last several decades and especially during the recent drought. Without these efforts, the state’s water challenges would be much worse. The good news is that there remains additional efficiency opportunities, and the state’s plan to make conservation a California way of life will help ensure that California communities, businesses, and ecosystems have the water they need to thrive.”

Following is a statement from Laurel Firestone, co-director of Community Water Center:
“The plan helps ensure affordability of our water supplies, a major issue for low-income communities. In addition, improving drought planning and preparedness, as the plan aims to do, will help protect our most vulnerable communities from the water shortages they have seen during this drought and that will only become more common in the future.”

Following is a statement from Jonathan Parfrey, executive director of Climate Resolve:
“Climate change is bringing more extreme weather. Our dry years have become drier and our wet years have become more extreme. With water supply at risk, it’s common sense for California to conserve and make the most of every drop.”

The plan released today was written by the five state agencies that will lead its implementation – the California Department of Water Resources, State Water Resources Control Board, California Public Utilities Commission, California Department of Food and Agriculture, and California Energy Commission.

Earlier this year, 36 leading water and climate scientists delivered a letter to Gov. Brown to express their support for Executive Order B-37-16 and the state’s draft plan to make water conservation a California way of life. The plan has also received support from a diverse array of stakeholders, including the Building Industry Association, Moulton Niguel Water District, Inland Empire Utilities Agency, Climate Resolve, WaterNow Alliance, California Coastkeeper Alliance, the Natural Resources Defense Council, Community Water Center, Pacific Institute, Environmental Justice Coalition for Water and the Water Foundation.

The plan has also received support from a diverse array of businesses, water agencies, environmental justice organizations and non-governmental organizations, many of whom served on the Urban Advisory Group panel who informed the development of the plan over several months.

The proposed urban water use standards are intended to build upon the conservation achieved under SBx7-7 and the emergency mandatory conservation targets. They reflect the need to transition from conservation (simply using less water) toward using water more efficiently. The state proposes to finalize the standards, which will define efficient use, by 2020. Water suppliers will then use those standards to calculate customized water use targets, which they will be required to meet by 2025. The state may also establish interim targets to ensure suppliers are on track to meet 2025 targets.


About California Coastkeeper Alliance
Using law, policy and science, California Coastkeeper Alliance supports and amplifies the work of 12 local Waterkeeper programs to fight for swimmable, fishable and drinkable waters for California communities and ecosystems.  CCKA was founded in 1999 with the belief that a healthy ocean and coast and clean water is vital to California’s economy, public health and way of life. Visit us at and follow us on twitter @CA_Waterkeepers.

About Climate Resolve
Climate Resolve is a Los Angeles-based nonprofit, founded in 2010, dedicated to creating real, practical solutions to meet the climate challenge while building a better city for Angelenos. Visit us at and follow us twitter @climateresolve.

About Community Water Center
The Community Water Center (CWC) believes all communities should have access to clean, safe, and affordable water. CWC acts as a catalyst for community-driven water solutions through organizing, education, and advocacy in California’s San Joaquin Valley. Visit us at and follow us on twitter @CWaterC.

About the Natural Resources Defense Council
The Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) is an international nonprofit environmental organization with more than 2 million members and online activists. Since 1970, our lawyers, scientists, and other environmental specialists have worked to protect the world’s natural resources, public health, and the environment. NRDC has offices in New York City, Washington, D.C., Los Angeles, San Francisco, Chicago, Bozeman, MT, and Beijing. Visit us at and follow us on twitter @NRDC.

About the Pacific Institute
The Pacific Institute is a global water think tank that creates and advances solutions to some of the world’s most pressing water challenges through interdisciplinary research and by partnering with a variety of stakeholders. Founded in 1987 and based in Oakland, California, the Pacific Institute envisions a world in which society, the economy, and the environment have the water they need to thrive now and in the future. Visit us at and follow us on twitter @PacificInstitut.

About WaterNow Alliance
WaterNow Alliance is a network of water utility leaders across the West dedicated to high impact, widespread adoption of sustainable water solutions in communities.  Visit us at and follow us on twitter @WaterNowOrg.

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