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Disadvantaged communities eligible for 50 percent principal forgiveness funds for drinking water projects
The State Water Resources Control Board (SWRCB) recently approved the 2017-2018 Drinking Water State Revolving Fund Intended Use Plan (DWSRF IUP) — thereby creating a new designation of Expanded Small Community Water Systems — and making these water systems eligible for principal forgiveness funding for up to 50% of their project costs.
Assemblymember Rudy Salas (D-District 32-Bakersfield) authored the bill so that smaller community water systems can apply for funding to complete infrastructure projects. Currently, only water systems serving communities smaller than 10,000 are eligible for this grant funding. Assembly Bill (AB) 560 seeks to keep drinking water safe and affordable by expanding state assistance to water systems in larger, though severely disadvantaged communities. Specifically, the bill extends the DWSRF IUP to community water systems to those that serve 10,000 – 20,000 residents or have between 3,300 and 6,600 service connections.
The Community Water Center (CWC), located in Visalia, worked with Assemblyman Salas to author AB 560 to require this increased funding access to larger SDACs. The previous inability to receive grant funding created huge issues for communities like Arvin, in Kern County, who were unable to afford the costs related to pure loan funding to remedy their drinking water problems.
“Communities in California should not have to struggle to access safe drinking water at home,” said Assemblymember Salas. “The financial assistance in AB 560 will help cities like Arvin provide families with safe, clean drinking water at affordable rates.”
Salas also noted that, “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. I want to thank the Water Board, CWC and all the stakeholders that made this a reality.”
Arvin Mayor Jose Gurrola Jr. expressed his appreciation to Assemblymember Salas and the Legislature for the legislation saying, “Our public water systems are doing all they can to provide safe reliable drinking water and we should be doing everything we can to make sure costs are not passed onto California families. We appreciate the vision and leadership of Assemblymember Salas and the Legislature in advancing AB 560 to make sure that families in communities like Arvin have access to clean and affordable water.”
Although the new legislation is welcomed by the state’s smaller water communities the CWC noted that 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 operations. They suggest that the state must take the next step of passing SB 623 (authored by State Majority Leader Bill Monning, D-District 17-Carmel), which will provide a new sustainable source of funding to meet longstanding gaps in drinking water funding.