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As Water Rates Climb, Many Are Struggling to Pay For an Essential Service

In California and across the country, household water rates have been rising as utilities invest to upgrade aging infrastructure, secure future supplies and meet treatment standards for clean drinking water. As monthly water bills continue to increase, growing numbers of customers have been struggling to pay.

Experts Urge California To Avoid Pitfalls In Water Deals In The Delta

Some of the thorniest debates over water in California revolve around the Sacramento-San Joaquin River Delta, where pumps send water flowing to farms and cities, and where populations of native fish have been declining.

OPINION – California Should Rethink Its Water Conservation Plan

In the wake of a megadrought, California is planning for a drier future. Regulators shouldn’t rush to impose conservation efforts that cost more than they’re worth. At the peak of the last drought, efforts to reduce water consumption remained mostly voluntary.

Costly And ‘Unnecessarily Complex’: Report Blasts California Water Conservation Plan

In a scathing review, advisors to the state Legislature have found that California’s proposed regulations for urban water conservation would be costly, overly complicated and difficult to implement.

California’s Proposed Water Conservation Rules Too Stringent And Costly, Analysts Say

California’s legislative advisers on Friday lambasted the state’s ambitious proposal to regulate urban water conservation, calling the measures costly and difficult to achieve, “in many cases without compelling justifications.”

Toilet-to-Tap or the Future of California Water?

If there is one truism in California water, it is that there is not enough of it. In part to try to help address that issue, on December 19, 2023, the California State Water Resources Control Board (State Water Board) adopted the state’s first direct potable reuse (DPR) regulations. As detailed in the State Water Board’s press release, the new regulations represent the “most advanced standards in the nation,” provide a “climate-resilient water source,” and “add millions of gallons of additional drinking water.” However, is the picture quite that rosy?

Debate Over Options for California’s Ailing Delta Region Reflects Deep Divisions Over Water

California water regulators have released a long-awaited analysis of options for managing flows in the Sacramento-San Joaquin River Delta, where fish populations have been declining and the ecosystem has been deteriorating.

The delta is the central hub of the state’s water system, drawing together rivers from a vast watershed and supplying pumps that send water flowing to cities and farms.

Opinion: California Has a New Plan for the Delta but Faces the Same Conflicts Over Water

California’s water warriors have a new arena for their perpetual conflict over the allocation of the state’s ever-evolving supply – a nearly 6,000-page proposal from the state Water Resources Control Board.

The draft essentially calls for sharp reductions in diversions from the Sacramento River and its tributaries to allow more water to flow through the environmentally troubled Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta.

Conservationists Fight to End Los Angeles Water Imports From Eastern Sierra’s Mono Lake

As California enters what is expected to be a fourth year of drought, the State Water Resources Control Board is reviewing a request from environmentalists to suspend Los Angeles Department of Water and Power diversions from Mono Lake in the Eastern Sierra Nevada. In its request, the nonprofit Mono Lake Committee argues that the combination of drought and diversions from streams that feed the lake are exposing the lake bottom near islands that host one of the world’s largest nesting gull populations.

Affordability-San Diego County Water Authority-Esquivel

Water Affordability Focus of Water Authority Roundtable

Water affordability for ratepayers was the topic of discussion during a legislative roundtable Thursday at the San Diego County Water Authority.

The Water Authority convened state, regional and local officials in search of winning strategies for enhancing water affordability for ratepayers across the county and the state.

Water agency managers, board members, elected officials and their representatives from throughout the county joined E. Joaquin Esquivel, chair of the State Water Resources Control Board, to assess and address water affordability issues.

Esquivel was appointed to the Water Resources Control Board by Governor Jerry Brown in March 2017. In February 2019, Governor Gavin Newsom named Esquivel chair of that five-member board, to which he was reappointed in 2021.

During the roundtable, Esquivel said maintaining water affordability and access to safe water for Californians is challenged by pressures that include aging infrastructure and climate change.

“How to sustain our systems in the next 10, 20, 50 years is a complex issue, but we need to collectively expand access, while maintaining affordability and supply,” he said.

Water affordability and infrastructure projects

Esquivel said state loans to water projects statewide help water affordability and access to a safe, clean supply.

“Water has created the wealth of this state, and water supply investments made here are examples of what needs to be done,” said Esquivel, referring to successful supply diversification investments by the Water Authority and its 24 member agencies.

He also discussed the need for additional water infrastructure projects – including desalination, groundwater recharge, and potable reuse, and an increase in funding sources for those projects – and the importance of federal funding to help ensure access to safe and affordable water for all communities.

Water Affordability-Joaquin Esquivel-San Diego County Water Authority

State Water Resources Control Board Chair E. Joaquin Esquivel and San Diego County Water Authority General Manager Sandra L. Kerl discussed water affordability Sept. 29 in San Diego. Photo: San Diego County Water Authority

Water Authority commitment to affordability

Water Authority General Manager Sandra Kerl detailed some of the agency’s affordability efforts in recent years.

“The Water Authority is committed to maintaining an affordable water supply and finding solutions to inherently complex challenges related to water costs, rates and investments,” said Kerl. “Significant advances in affordability can only be achieved through the combined efforts of all four sectors that affect the cost of water for our region. Those sectors are the federal government, state government, wholesale water agencies and local water retailers.”

Reliable supply

Kerl said the Water Authority’s commitment to affordability includes securing $25 million from the State of California to pay water bills for San Diego County residents impacted by COVID-19; securing $90 million over the past two years through successful litigation efforts and distributing that money directly to its 24 member agencies; avoiding hundreds of millions of dollars in future costs on water deliveries; and maintaining strong credit ratings that reduce the cost of infrastructure.

“Everything at the Water Authority is designed to deliver a safe and reliable water supply at an affordable cost, and the agency has taken numerous steps over the past three years to enhance affordability,” Kerl said. “Water affordability is imperative to equitable water access. This resource should be available to all regardless of race, ethnicity, or income level. Nobody should have to choose between safe, clean water and affordable water.”

Collaboration on solutions

Kerl said that the federal and state government, wholesale water agencies, and local water retailers can work together in finding solutions to the complex challenges related to water costs, rates and investments.

A recent poll by the Water Authority found that more than half of the residents of San Diego County would support a hypothetical program that provided water discounts or an assistance program for low-income ratepayers – even if they had to pay a few dollars more a month to fund it.

The Water Authority holds periodic legislative roundtables to promote collaboration with the water industry, civic and business leaders, on critical water issues in the San Diego region.