Press Release Provided by the California Department of Water Resources
Moving to provide immediate support to communities facing water supply challenges, the Department of Water Resources (DWR) on August 11th announced the first round of funding commitments for $200 million available through the Small Community Drought Relief Program.
DWR, in coordination with the State Water Resources Control Board, is directing $25 million to 10 small water systems in Tulare, Siskiyou, Shasta, Lake and Kern Counties. The funds will support a range of projects including emergency water system repairs, infrastructure such as new wells and water storage tanks, and improvements to intakes and distribution systems.
“The climate-induced drought is challenging Californians on several fronts, including small community water systems,” said DWR Director Karla Nemeth, “Our goal is to provide immediate and near-term financial and technical support to help small communities overcome this drought and future droughts.”
“Drought is a compounding stressor to already struggling and vulnerable drinking water systems in the state,” said Joaquin Esquivel, Chair of the State Water Board. “DWR’s investments in critical water supply projects will provide much-needed emergency assistance as the state continues building the long-term resilience of our water systems. This new program also highlights the criticality of continued coordination between local, state and federal agencies to support communities that are responding to intensifying drought conditions.”
The Small Community Drought Relief Program assists communities that are not served by an urban water supplier with at least 3,000 connections or that provides more than 3,000 acre-feet of drinking water annually. The program is one of several drought funding programs available through the State. An additional $100 million in grant funding for urban drought relief projects and $200 million for multi-benefit drought relief projects is expected to be released this fall.
Recipients of the initial $25 million in funding include:
The Hornbrook Community Services District in Siskiyou County: Faced with a fading water supply due to drought, the District is set to receive $1,160,000 in funding to install a new well, refurbish existing wells, and replace leaking pipelines. In the interim, the State is providing bottled water to residents.
The Walker-Mangiaracina State Small Water System (Linwood) in Tulare County: Located near Visalia, this underserved community’s water system relies on one well to provide water to six homes. The well failed in June 2021, forcing residents to depend on a fire hose for their water supply. The community will receive $397,033 in funding to extend an existing water main from Visalia to ensure a reliable water supply, with additional homes expected to be connected as part of the project.
The Frazier Park Public Utility District in Kern County: The disadvantaged community of Frazier Park is currently burdened with aging pipelines that are susceptible to leaks which has been further exasperated due to the current drought. As a solution, the community will be awarded $9,851,450 in funding to replace 24,000 linear feet of pipelines.
Also today, DWR released guidelines for how small water systems may apply for remaining funds as part of the Small Community Drought Relief Program. Eligible projects must be designed to benefit small communities located in counties under Governor Newsom’s drought emergency proclamations. Small communities impacted by the drought are encouraged to apply as soon as possible and can submit applications or questions to SmallCommunityDrought@Water.CA.gov.
This new program’s focus on the emergency and interim needs of water systems complements ongoing efforts by DWR and the State Water Board to partner with communities on sustainable drinking water solutions that will improve their resiliency to drought and other climate change-induced conditions. For example, since 2019, the board’s Safe and Affordable Funding for Equity and Resilience (SAFER) program has provided financial and technical assistance to implement long-term solutions for safe, clean, affordable drinking water access for 148 communities. Going forward, the board also will administer $1.3 billion for drinking water and wastewater projects and $85 million for groundwater cleanup and water recycling using funding allocated in this year’s State budget. At its next board meeting on August 18, the State Water Board will consider authorizing the first tranche of funding from the State budget for drinking water and wastewater projects for small, disadvantaged communities and also review proposals within its draft 2021-22 Fund Expenditure Plan on how best to invest $130 million of drinking water funding from the Safe and Affordable Drinking Water Fund during this fiscal year.
Communities with a failing drinking water supply must contact their county’s Office of Emergency Services for immediate assistance and emergency response to urgent drinking water needs. These contacts can then facilitate requests for state funding.