Following on the heels of Governor Newsom’s statewide order on wearing masks in public and the House’s introduction of a new bill that includes proposed water funding (HR 2), major agriculture and business leaders have now joined a growing coalition of clean water advocates urging Congress to support the HEROES Act and fund critical water needs to keep families safe and healthy.
“In this time of crisis, we have come together to urge the California Congressional Delegation to include funding for urgent water infrastructure and water affordability needs as part of the next federal stimulus package or other pending Congressional actions,” said the coalition in a joint letter delivered to California Congressional leaders on June 23.
The coalition of 70 organizations collectively represents California frontline communities, more than 500 California water agencies, and organizations from the environmental, agricultural, and business sectors. Water, environmental, and civil rights leaders, such as Dolores Huerta, who signed onto an original coalition letter, are now joined by new major agricultural and business voices, including California Chamber of Commerce, Agricultural Council of California, Western Growers, Rural County Representatives of California (RCRC), and Bay Area Council.
Together, they are calling on Congress to support the water-related provisions of the HEROES Act and to take several steps in the next federal stimulus package or in other pending actions.
Among them are $100 billion in new funding over five years for Clean Water and Drinking Water State Revolving Funds, with at least 20 percent of the new funding distributed to disadvantaged communities as additional subsidization (grants) rather than loans and eligibility for the new funding for all water systems, regardless of their organizational structure.
At a minimum, include the $1.5 billion in water affordability funding as proposed in the HEROES Act, and ideally include $4 billion in immediate funding to the Environmental Protection Agency for grants to the states for a Low-Income Households Drinking Water and Wastewater Assistance/Affordability Program to help struggling households pay for essential water and wastewater service.
Provide emergency funding for affected water utilities, particularly serving disadvantaged or hard-hit communities, to help offset lost revenue, the costs associated with moratoriums on shutoffs, and the essential public health protections being put in place by water utilities.
Provide shutoff moratorium/safe reconnection provision that ensures every American has access to water in their homes now and through the duration of the COVID-19 crisis and that allows for relief to vulnerable customers for a time afterwards to regain their financial footing while also providing needed fiscal support to water systems.
“While not a comprehensive list of the actions our various organizations believe should be taken, these do represent meaningful, and we believe necessary, steps to meet both immediate and long-term drinking water needs of Californians while also boosting the economy and helping preserve access to the most fundamental tool in our arsenal to address the spread of COVID-19 – washing your hands,” said the coalition in its letter.
ACWA, Association of California Water Agencies, is a statewide association of public agencies whose more than 450 members are responsible for about 90 percent of the water delivered in California. For more information, visit www.acwa.com.