Striving for Equity in Public Investments in Water in California
Report looks at projects benefiting disadvantaged communities and technical assistance efforts to increase the capacity of those communities to secure funds and manage projects
Nearly halfway through funding implementation, a new study, titled “Striving for Equity in Public Investments in Water in California: An Analysis of Prop 1 Implementation,” evaluates whether or not Prop 1 funds are benefiting disadvantaged communities and makes a strong case for policymakers to ensure support goes to the communities that need it the most. The report calls for explicitly making equitable allocations in future environmental and climate resilience funding – including a new bond measure to conserve and increase water supply, provide flood protection, and reduce wildfire impact – and for continued prioritization of funding to disadvantaged communities for remaining Prop 1 funds. The study was conducted by the UCLA Institute of the Environment and Sustainability and can be accessed here: https://www.ioes.ucla.edu/project/prop1
“Prop 1 funding is being spent thoughtfully and effectively in the ways intended by the measure that California voters approved, and our analysis shows that when you prioritize equity, funding does go to the disadvantaged communities that most need it,” said Jon Christensen, an adjunct assistant professor in the Institute of the Environment and Sustainability at UCLA, and author of the report. “The lessons we are learning from Prop 1 implementation need to be front and center as California policymakers make important decisions about future funding for water and other environmental projects.”
The analysis shows that of the $2.8 billion assigned to projects so far, 30% is going to projects benefiting disadvantaged communities, 29% is going to projects benefiting communities that are not disadvantaged, and 41% is going to projects where it is unknown whether disadvantaged communities are benefiting. Key recommendations outlined in the report include:
- Making equitable allocations: Future environmental funding measures should continue to draw lessons learned from Prop 1 implementation to refine implementation guidelines so that funds benefit communities most in need.
- Prioritizing technical assistance: Technical assistance helps disadvantaged communities to participate in applying for funding by providing training, guidance, and hands-on assistance in preparing plans and applications.
- Setting additional funding mechanisms: Prop 1 helped communities develop plans for projects in disadvantaged communities that will require future funding to implement, whether through another bond measure or other funding measures.
- Developing a more effective method to assess benefits to disadvantaged communities: Convene a task force that includes stakeholders to come up with an improved methodology to determine whether projects are benefiting disadvantaged households and communities.
“In order to fulfill the promise our state has made for all Californians to have access to clean water and healthy communities, it’s critical that disadvantaged communities across the state are able to access the funding they need,” said Jonathan Nelson, Policy Director of the Community Water Center, which has worked with local residents from over 80 California communities and secured more than $17 million in state funding, including from Prop 1, to improve access to safe, clean, and affordable water.
“We cannot overstate how important it is to ensure investments made in community engagement and technical assistance are complemented by implementation support, with a strong focus on prioritizing funding for communities with the greatest needs,” continued Nelson. “These lessons are more relevant than ever given passage of the Safe and Affordable Drinking Water Fund and in light of the need for additional bond funding to support capital drinking water projects.”
The UCLA study found that while 452 community water systems had received technical assistance to plan for badly needed improvements, very few of those projects will receive funding for implementation under Prop 1 because most of that funding has already been allocated. However, those projects will now be better prepared to apply for future funding.
“California has had a longstanding need to develop a steady stream of funding to fulfill our state’s promise of a human right to water, as well as equitable access to other environmental benefits,” said Christensen. “Our state has taken significant steps towards that goal, but there is still much work to be done. Investments in projects take time, care, and patience, especially in disadvantaged communities requiring technical assistance.”
Prop 1 built on lessons learned from Prop 84, a previous environmental bond measure that prioritized equitable investments by setting specific targets for spending in disadvantaged communities for individual areas or chapters of expenditures. As happened with Prop 84, sections of Prop 1 that established explicit goals for serving disadvantaged communities are doing better at serving those communities than sections that did not establish clear goals.
For example, as of April 2019, $398 million or 90% of the funds assigned to projects to improve drinking water and wastewater treatment is going to 241 projects serving disadvantaged communities, which were prioritized in that chapter. In some chapters, the stated goals for serving disadvantaged communities are even being surpassed. By contrast, those chapters that did not prioritize funding allocations in disadvantaged communities did not fare as well – spending in disadvantaged communities is at less than 1% in a chapter that allocated $395 million for flood management, and at zero in a chapter that made $2.7 billion available for water storage projects to improve the operation of the state water system that serves 23 million Californians and 750,000 acres of agriculture.
The study on Prop 1 is being released as state leaders are considering a handful of proposals to put a new bond measure on the ballot to conserve and increase water supply, provide flood protection, and reduce wildfire impact. A brand new poll shows that two-thirds (67%) of California voters would support a new bond measure, driven by the value Californians continue to place on protecting water quality and water supplies for the future and increasing concern about wildfire risks. Voters identify providing and protecting safe drinking water, along with protecting rivers, lakes and streams, among the top priorities for a future bond measure.
State Water Contractors releases 2018-2019 Annual Report on Investments in Science
Investing in Science, Investing in California’s Future
The State Water Contractors (SWC) today released its 2018-2019 annual report highlighting the importance of investing in science and research to provide a more reliable water supply for California and to protect, restore and enhance the Delta ecosystem. SWC has invested more than $2.2 million in science and research efforts to date and continues to work to develop new water management tools, better understand how to engage in successful habitat restoration and protect precious species.
Learn more about our priorities, successes and commitment to science and read our 2018-2019 annual report by clicking here.
U.S. EPA awards over $8.4 million to California State Water Resources Control Board for water quality protection
From the US EPA:
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has awarded a $8,415,900 grant to the California State Water Resources Control Board to reduce polluted runoff and improve the health of California’s waterways. Today’s announcement coincides with the 23rd annual Lake Tahoe Summit in South Lake Tahoe.
“Improving water quality across the West is a high priority for EPA,” said EPA Pacific Southwest Regional Administrator Mike Stoker. “This grant will assist California in its important efforts to protect and restore its lakes, rivers, coastal waters and groundwater.”
“Because we have limited resources for programs that address nonpoint source pollution, we are immensely grateful for the EPA grant,” said Chief Deputy Director of the State Water Resources Control Board Jonathan Bishop. “This funding provides for much-needed on-the-ground-work in our ongoing attempts to protect our waters and maintain water quality throughout the state.”
The grant is part of the Nonpoint Source (NPS) program under Clean Water Act Section 319. NPS grants are given to states to implement environmental programs that address various sources of nonpoint source pollution to surface water and groundwater in order to achieve and maintain water quality standards. This EPA funding supports state-wide efforts and on-the-ground projects that implement a variety of best management practices to reduce pollution, including watershed planning, monitoring, and education and outreach programs.
Section 319 is used to support water quality improvements throughout the state. Recently completed projects in the California portion of the Lake Tahoe Basin include:
Accelerated Best Management Practice Implementation in the Lake Tahoe Basin – Tahoe Regional Planning Agency, $300,000
The project is built on an existing program by the Tahoe Regional Planning Agency to help private property owners and local municipalities implement stormwater runoff control practices. Fine sediment particles delivered to Lake Tahoe by urban stormwater are the primary pollutant of concern for the lake, causing a loss of clarity in the lake. The project increased implementation of control practices by commercial and multi-family residential parcels, based on proximity to recently completed or planned water quality improvement projects, sensitive lands, steep slopes, and areas that have been identified as having a high level of pollutants.
Lake Forest Water Quality Improvement Project (Panorama Phase) – Placer County, $750,000
The project supported the reduction of sediment and improved water quality by restoring wetlands in the Lake Forest – Panorama neighborhood. This project has invested more than $6.7 million in water quality improvements over the past nine years. Partners include the California Tahoe Conservancy, U.S. Forest Service, Placer County and the Tahoe Regional Planning Agency. The project restored Lake Forest Creek as well as a portion of wetlands on California State Parks land.
Nonpoint source pollution is caused as water moves over the ground and picks up natural and man-made pollutants, transporting them to lakes, rivers, coastal waters and groundwater. This type of pollution can contribute to problems like harmful algal blooms, erosion, and bacteria contamination of surface and groundwater.
Congress enacted Section 319 of the Clean Water Act in 1987 to help states control nonpoint sources of water pollution. This year, EPA is distributing more than $165 million in section 319 grants to states, territories, and tribes. Over the last two years, states and tribes restored over 80 waters and reduced over 17 million pounds of nitrogen, nearly 4 million pounds of phosphorus, and 3.5 million tons of excess sediment through section 319 projects. The 319 grants received by California complement other funding to address pollution to surface and groundwater, including Clean Water State Revolving Funds and Water Pollution Control grants.
For more information regarding EPA’s Nonpoint Source grant program visit: https://www.epa.gov/nps/319-grant-program-states-and-territories.
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