Community Water Center

Community-driven water solutions through organizing, education, and advocacy
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Drought Resilient Communities Act, SB 971 (Hertzberg) to strengthen drought planning for small and rural communities

The 2012-2016 drought served as an alarming indicator of California’s warmer future and a preview of a new normal of more frequent and longer droughts. Almost 12,000 Californians ran out of water. In the worst cases, rural communities throughout California, communities ran out of water completely

In the hard hit Central Valley, communities like East Porterville had hundreds of wells that went dry, leaving several thousands of residents with insufficient clean water to meet their drinking water and sanitation needs. 

Many families were without running water for several months, some for years. Like Señora Magaña whose photo is featured on the right, many families had to carry their water from water stations. This completely changed the way families cooked, bathed, cleaned their homes, and lived their lives. 

If another drought occurs as severe as the last one, more than 4,500 domestic wells in the Central Valley would be impacted. The cost to mitigate this damage would be more than $115 million.

This directly threatens California’s ability to secure access to safe and affordable drinking water for all and presents a serious public health crisis. This undermines California’s efforts to achieve the Human Right to Water for all Californians.


Drought Resilient Communities Act, SB 971 (Hertzberg)

In an effort to build a more drought-resilient future, the Legislature approved SB 606 (Hertzberg, 2018) and AB 1668 (Friedman, 2018), which set water efficiency standards and goals for urban communities and water suppliers. While both measures made major improvements to drought planning for urban areas, a parallel framework is needed for small and rural systems. 

On February 11, Senate Majority Leader Bob Hertzberg introduced SB 971, also known as the Drought Resilient Communities Act, to help prevent catastrophic impacts on drinking water for areas most vulnerable to the impacts of climate change. The bill is co-sponsored by Community Water Center (CWC) and California Municipal Utilities Association (CMUA). A number of organizations are part of a coalition in support of this legislation, including CWC, CMUA, NRDC, NextGen, Leadership Counsel, Clean Water Action, PolicyLInk and others. 

The new legislation facilities better coordination and drought preparedness for small and rural communities and water suppliers by making various changes to their local drought and water shortage contingency plans. This includes integrating proactive drought planning as part of key existing county planning processes. The legislation would also implement new state measures designed to better plan and support drought resilience for small water systems.


Drinking Water Tool

When we have better data and when we have a clearer understanding of where there are communities whose drinking water needs are vulnerable to groundwater depletion, communities are better able to use data to advocate for their needs and decision makers are better able to proactively plan for water management that takes into account vulnerabilities of the region.

That is why Community Water Center has created a NEW interactive drinking water web tool so that communities and decision-makers can better prepare to protect drinking water during these changing conditions. This Tool helps us understand the potential future drought crisis, so that we can act NOW to prepare.

Visit to learn:

- Where your water comes from based on your address

- Whether a future drought could impact your drinking water supply

- About the groundwater quality and supply in your area

- How to advocate for safe, clean and affordable drinking water

- How to compare information about your water with your local Groundwater Sustainability Plan



Take Action Today! 

Show your support for SB 971 by submitting a letter of support or adopting a resolution in support in your organization.

Submit a Letter of Support for SB 971

Adopt Resolution in Support of SB 971

  • Download a sample Resolution in Support
  • Share your resolution in support! If your organization passes a resolution in support of SB 971, please make sure to share this information widely.
    • Send a copy of the resolution to your state senators and representatives.
    • Send a copy of your resolution to Patty Avila-Garcia, Policy Advocate at so that we can add your organization to our list of supporters.


SB 971 Drought Resilient Communities Act Factsheet

Using the Drinking Water Tool to Prepare for the Next Drought

PRESS RELEASE: Senate Majority Leader Hertzberg proposes law to protect access to clean drinking water


If you are interested in becoming involved with this work, contact Patty Avila-Garcia, Policy Advocate at or 916-706-3346. 

New CWC Drinking Water Tool to Prepare for the Next Drought

Missed our Feb. 12, 2020 Drinking Water Tool Webinar? Download and watch at home (.mp4;160MB)

Here’s a fact: California WILL experience longer, more severe droughts due to climate change. This will cause drinking water supplies for vulnerable communities to run dry or become contaminated -- and as a result will directly threaten California’s ability to secure access to safe and affordable drinking water for all. That’s why the Community Water Center has created a NEW interactive drinking water web tool! So that communities and decision-makers can better prepare to protect drinking water during these changing conditions. 

Are you interested in knowing where your water comes from based on your home address? Or how a future drought could impact your drinking water? 


The Drinking Water Tool can help you learn:

- Where your water comes from based on your address

- Whether a future drought could impact your drinking water supply

- About the groundwater quality and supply in your area

- How to advocate for safe, clean and affordable drinking water

- How to compare information about your water with your local Groundwater Sustainability Plan


Visit to start using the Tool today.




Based on an analysis developed for this tool, 1.6 million Californians live in areas served by private domestic wells. Many of these residents live in the Central Valley and would be affected by future droughts. The Drinking Water Tool estimates that a future drought could impact 4,500 domestic wells in the Central Valley, potentially costing the state about $115 million. This presents a serious public health crisis and undermines California’s efforts to secure the Human Right to Water for all Californians. 

We urge you to take action and help ensure communities are prepared for the next drought! For more information about drought and drinking water click here.

Protecting Drinking Water and Groundwater Planning in the Salinas Valley Workshop

On July 31, 2019, over 50 residents and community leaders attended a drinking water protection and groundwater planning workshop at San Jerardo Cooperative hosted by Community Water Center, San Jerardo Cooperative, and the Union of Concerned Scientists. The majority of attendees get their drinking water from private wells and small water systems in the Salinas Valley. 

This workshop was an opportunity to share information about the Sustainable Groundwater Management Act, sustainability indicators, and what is being proposed in the draft Groundwater Sustainability Plan by the Salinas Valley Basin GSA. During the workshop, we received feedback on how residents would like to see groundwater managed and get involved in the process. Community Water Center will continue to work with those who attended to continue to increase engagement among drinking water stakeholders in around groundwater planning in the Salinas Valley.

For more information about how to get involved in groundwater planning in general, please visit: CWC Learn More about SGMA page.

For more information about the Salinas Valley Basin Groundwater Sustainability Agency, we encourage you to visit their website ( and sign up for their “interested parties” list. 


Link to materials provided at the event: 


Part 1: Sustainable Groundwater Management Act Overview 

Adriana Renteria, Regional Water Management Coordinator for Community Water Center provided an introduction to groundwater and the Sustainable Groundwater Management Act (SGMA), the importance of groundwater, and how sustainability management criteria relate to drinking water. The presentation also included the powers and responsibilities held by Groundwater Sustainability Agencies (GSAs) and the requirements of Groundwater Sustainability Plans (GSPs) to manage groundwater to prevent “undesirable results” that are significant and unreasonable. The focus of this workshop was on three sustainable management criteria which can impact drinking water supplies: 1) degraded water quality, seawater intrusion, and 3) lowering of groundwater levels. 


Part 2: Minimum Thresholds Activity 

Coreen Weintrab, California and Western states campaign organizer at the Union of Concerned Scientists, led the group in an interactive activity on setting minimum thresholds in a hypothetical “Sun Valley GSA.” Minimum thresholds, determined locally by each GSA, are failure points to be avoided. In this activity, three options for minimum thresholds for groundwater levels (250 ft, 180 ft, or 130 ft) were provided along with information about the average depth of private domestic wells (150 ft) and community wells (200 ft), as well as social and economic considerations of each option. Each small group had to discuss and select and option for the Sun Valley GSA. Each small group then shared their decision with the wider group. 

Part 3: Salinas Valley Groundwater 

Heather Lukacs, Director of Community Solutions at Community Water Center, then shared a presentation on Salinas Valley Groundwater. The vast majority of drinking water in the Salinas Valley comes from groundwater. Groundwater is the only water source available for most residents in the Salinas Valley. The Salinas Valley Basin GSA is in the middle of the planning process that will impact groundwater levels, groundwater quality, and the coast of groundwater. 

The goal of this presentation was to connect the experiences of individuals who rely on private wells or shared wells with the planning efforts of the Salinas Valley Basin GSA. An overview of pumping, sea water intrusion, groundwater levels, and groundwater quality in the Salinas Valley were provided, followed by a discussion of the timeline, location, composition, of the Salinas Valley GSA. In the Salinas Valley about 93% is agricultural use and 7% is urban. About 50% of the private wells sampled did not meet the safe drinking water standards for nitrate. The 180/400ft aquifer is the one critically overdraft (closer to the coast). Information was then shared on draft minimum thresholds from the draft Groundwater Sustainability Plan Chapter 8 for the 180/400 ft aquifer, which is the subbasin of the Salinas Valley Basin closest to the coast. 

100+ Community Members Travel to Sacramento for Rally!

Yesterday was a powerful day with over 100 residents from the San Joaquin Valley traveling to Sacramento to share their experience with unsafe water and urge legislators to support the Governor’s Safe and Affordable Drinking Water Fund. Several speakers raised their voices for safe water at the rally including West Goshen resident Lucy Hernandez, Lanare resident Isabel Solario, Senator Bill Monning, Senator Ed Hernandez, Assemblymember Wendy Carrillo, State Water Resources Control Board Chair Felicia Marcus, Secretary of the California Department of Food and Agriculture Karen Ross, Dolores Huerta and Dr. Salvador Sandoval.

See pictures from the day below! Thank you to everyone who took the time to raise their voices for safe water!

See more on the rally from Telemundo Sacramento and Univision Sacramento


For Immediate Release

Contact: Steven Maviglio, 916-607-8340

June 8, 2018

SACRAMENTO -- Supporters of a statewide Safe and Affordable Drinking Water Fund today applauded the commitment by Governor Jerry Brown, Legislative leadership and a bipartisan group of legislators to continue to craft a solution to the state’s drinking water crisis.

The Legislature did not take further action on the Fund as part of this year’s budget bill but signaled that they will continue work on the Fund through the summer. Noted the Governor’s Department of Finance spokesperson H.D. Palmer: “The Legislature has indicated a commitment to continue discussions this summer. They recognize that this is a very important issue that will take some more time to work through.”

The budget does specifically set aside $23.5 million General Fund for allocation to “safe drinking water actions later in this legislative session.”

Senator Monning, the Senate Majority Leader and author of the original bill proposing the Fund, SB 623, made the following statement:

“I appreciate the commitment of the Governor and my Senate and Assembly colleagues to work toward a comprehensive drinking water solution in coming weeks. I am proud of the work we have done to develop the bipartisan Safe & Affordable Drinking Water Fund, which will permanently solve California's drinking water crisis. Californians deserve…and should expect… for us to lead on this vital human rights issue and not ignore a tragedy that impacts more than a million people. I look forward to continuing to work with the Governor and the Legislature to get this issue resolved once and for all.”

Laurel Firestone of Community Water Center issued the following statement on today’s actions on behalf of the 140 environmental justice, agricultural, public health, business, labor, and water districts supporting the Fund:

"While we are disappointed that California’s drinking water crisis has been prolonged for so long, we are pleased that the Governor, legislative leadership, and a bipartisan majority of the Legislature remains strongly committed to the Safe & Affordable Drinking Water Fund and we appreciate the commitment to take action later in the Legislative Session. Nearly three-quarters of California voters are supportive of legislative action to address this issue now. We are confident the Governor and Legislature will not walk away from creating a permanent source of funding to ensure that all Californians have clean water, both now and for future generations. This problem is not going away and will only grow worse with further inaction."

Veronica Garibay of Leadership Counsel for Justice and Accountability added that communities throughout the state mustn’t have to wait any longer for clean drinking water. “The Safe and Affordable Drinking Water Fund developed as a result of years of advocacy, years of lugging bottled water home, years of dirty tap water running into homes and schools. Dirty tap water cannot continue to be the reality for a million Californians; we expect a vote in favor of safe drinking water this summer.”

Ag Council President Emily Rooney said, “We are wholeheartedly committed to solving this crucial drinking water issue this year. We remain dedicated, along Governor Brown and over 140 other groups and community partners, to solving this ongoing problem for low-income and disadvantaged communities throughout the state. As the Sac Bee Editorial Board said on June 4, 'This is 21st century California. There is simply no excuse for water that isn’t safe.’"

“We have a strong bipartisan coalition committed to the creation of the Safe and Affordable Drinking Water Fund,” said Jennifer Clary of Clean Water Action. “We’re confident that our historic alliance will lead to a successful outcome.”

For more information, please visit

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Rallies Held for Safe and Affordable Drinking Water in Bakersfield and Merced

Dolores Huerta joined community members as they traveled to Bakersfield on May 11th to urge support for the Safe and Affordable Drinking Water Fund.

On Friday of National Drinking Water Week, more than 60 people, including Dolores Huerta, came out to simultaneous rallies in Merced and Bakersfield to push for the Safe and Affordable Drinking Water Fund. The San Joaquin Valley is hard hit by toxic tap water, and residents spoke out for change. The rallies were covered by many local news stations, including Bakersfield Now, KGET, The Bakersfield Californian, Your Central Valley, and The Merced Sun-Star. Residents spoke about living with unsafe and unaffordable drinking water, and about the need for legislators to support the Safe and Affordable Drinking Water Fund. It was a powerful day for the water justice movement and the perfect way to end National Drinking Water Week!

Safe and Affordable Drinking Water Fund Update

AGUA members traveled to Sacramento to meet with legislators and urge them to support the safe and affordable drinking water solutions.

This week, San Joaquin Valley residents traveled to Sacramento for the third time this year to urge their legislators to prioritize safe and affordable drinking water for ALL Californians by supporting the Governor's Safe and Affordable Drinking Water Fund. In addition to meeting with legislators, residents attended an Assembly budget hearing to share their experience with unsafe and unaffordable water and urged the committee members to support the Fund. 

We are only three weeks away from a crucial point in this campaign, when the California legislature must pass the state budget, which currently includes language for creating the Fund. SJV residents will continue to lead the way to make sure this solution passes next month, alongside ally organizations, but we need your help!


Join the movement by taking 5 minutes to email your state legislator and tell them: In the sixth largest economy in the world, we can and must ensure that all Californians have access to safe and affordable drinking water. This crisis has gone on for far too long. Share with your friends and family to make sure we pass the Safe and Affordable Drinking Water Fund this year!

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. 



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