Drinking Water

Clean water advocates hoping to safeguard SAFER funding

 •  by Lois Henry
In response to the COVID-19 crisis, the state issued a moratorium on drinking water shutoffs for nonpayment. But those bills will come due. PHOTO CREDIT: Lois Henry

Just when it looked like small drinking water systems in California were finally getting the long-term help they so desperately need, along came COVID-19.

The state is peppered with failing small systems, many serving low-income communities without the resources to repair them. At least one-third of those failing systems are in the San Joaquin Valley, according to the State Water Resources Control Board.

They are typically in remote, rural areas serving a few hundred to fewer than a dozen residents on one or two wells. Residents simply don’t have the money to pay for needed repairs and upkeep.

State and federal funding for those systems has been sporadic, at best, leading to generational problems of residents unable to drink or sometimes even bathe in contaminated tap water.

That’s where the new Safe and Affordable Funding for Equity and Resilience (SAFER) program comes in. It was created last year to provide an ongoing fund of $130 million a year to help pay for repairs to those small domestic water providers.

The SAFER program was seen as the first toehold in the climb toward providing clean water for all Californians.

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Lois Henry
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