By the National Water Resources Control Board
Seizing a generational opportunity to leverage unprecedented public funding to combat drought and climate change, the State Water Resources Control Board provided historic $3.3 billion in financial assistance this past fiscal year. (July 1, 2021 – June 30, 2022) to water systems and communities for projects that build water resilience, respond to drought-related emergencies, and expand access to safe drinking water.
State Water Board funding to communities over the past fiscal year has doubled from 2020-21, and is four times the amount of assistance provided just two years ago. The marked increase also results from last year’s three-year investment of $5.2 billion in drought response and water resiliency by Governor Newsom and the Legislature as part of the California Comeback Plan, voter-approved Proposition 1 and Proposition 68 funds, and significant federal dollars invested. through government revolving funds.
“The accelerating impacts of climate change have given us all a sense of urgency,” said Joaquin Esquivel, chairman of the State Water Board. “Bold investments from the administration and legislature, along with $2 billion in federal bipartisan infrastructure law dollars expected over the next five years, are proof that California has the kind of leadership and support it needs to respond to climate change and focus our collective attention on securing a common water future. For its part, the council is proud that its financial aid division is driving this response through effective and responsible funding.
About 90% of the assistance provided this fiscal year was in the form of loans to major water resistance and clean water projects. The council offers loans with terms and interest rates that applicants could not obtain from a traditional lender, making capital-intensive projects more affordable for communities. During the past year, the board funded 30-year loans at rates ranging from 0.8% to 1.2%.
Nearly $270 million in grants have also been distributed for drinking water and sanitation projects in disadvantaged communities. These grant funds will not have to be repaid.
The council has launched an online dashboard that breaks down this fiscal year funding into several categories, including county, disadvantaged status, project type and assembly or senate district.
Building sustainable supplies through water recycling
The council has prioritized funding for recycled water, which can be generated from sewage or stormwater and is a sustainable, energy-efficient source of water. Direct drinking water reuse regulations slated for council next year expand the potential of recycled wastewater as a source of drinking water and will help the state achieve its goal of increasing the recycled water use at 2.5 million acre-feet per year, enough to supply 833,000 three-person households, by 2030.
The council distributed more than $1.2 billion in 15 funding agreements for recycling projects, representing nearly 40% of the council’s total financial assistance for the year. Funding recipients include:
- Pure Water San Diego, a multi-year wastewater recycling program, which received $664 million in low-interest loans from the council as well as approximately $734 million from the Water Infrastructure and Innovation Act program of the US Environmental Protection Agency. The City of San Diego estimates that the Pure Water program will supply more than 40% of San Diego’s water supply by the end of 2035.
- The Town of Morro Bay, which received over $45 million to construct a new wastewater treatment facility with advanced treatment, transmission pipeline and injection wells. The facility will allow the city to replenish the groundwater basin and increase the reliability of supply.
- Inland Empire Utilities Agency, which received more than $16 million in three projects to increase stormwater and dry-weather runoff to help recharge the Chino, Jurupa, Wineville and Montclair basins.
- Coachella Valley Water District, which received more than $27 million to increase the use of non-potable recycled wastewater for irrigation to reduce groundwater overdraft.
Taken together, the 15 projects will produce an additional 75,000 acre-feet of water per year for the state by 2030, enough to support 225,000 households per year.
Drought emergency assistance and drinking water infrastructure
Over the past 12 months, the state’s rapidly advancing drought has exposed vulnerabilities in aging drinking water infrastructure and caused nearly 1,400 wells to dry up as water tables fell. The board has responded to numerous communities experiencing water outages across the state with expert support from Clean Water Division staff and more than $26 million for emergency repairs, water deliveries, and more. bottled and transported water and technical assistance.
Drinking water emergencies are often symptoms of systemic problems, especially for failing water systems that frequently serve disadvantaged communities. In the case of the city of Needles, a highly deprived community of just over 5,000 in eastern San Bernardino County, a burst pipe and lightning strike caused the water system to fail completely. , already grappling with contamination problems. and the Affordable Finance for Equity and Resilience (SAFER) drinking water program, the council provided immediate funding for emergency repairs and technical assistance to help the city define its project needs and apply for funding. In the past fiscal year, the board approved a grant of more than $13 million in supplemental funding to build vital water system infrastructure to address spring capacity issues, poor water quality water and aging facilities.
“It would have been impossible for us to fix our 80-year-old water system on our own,” said Needles City Manager Rick Daniels. “Our median household income is only $40,000 a year and we can’t raise water rates to pay for improvements. We are 140 miles from the next California town and temperatures here can reach 120 degrees, so the 2020 water outage threatened our very existence. The technical and financial aid provided by the State has given our city a future.
Created in 2019, the SAFER program uses a combination of tools, funding sources and regulatory authorities to establish sustainable drinking water solutions in collaboration with water systems and communities. In the first three years of a 10-year program, SAFER reduced by 40%, or 650,000, the number of Californians affected by failing water systems.
In the past fiscal year, the council provided $984 million, including $118 million through the SAFER program, to advance access to safe, clean drinking water across the state. This support has funded construction projects, benefiting nearly 8.6 million people, and technical and planning assistance, benefiting 465,000 people.
In addition to the water recycling and clean water assistance described above, the council has also provided more than $1.1 billion to wastewater and stormwater projects over the past of the 2021-2022 financial year.
More information about the Financial Aid Division can be found on the council’s website.