The coronavirus sparked a lot of water-related questions and
issues when the pandemic moved into California in 2020.
Below are the latest articles on the topic as they appeared in
our Aquafornia news aggregate.
California households face over $600 million in household water
debt, with some 1.6 million homes — roughly 12 percent of all
state residents — dealing with an average of $500 in arrears.
The findings show clear racial inequities, with households of
color bearing the brunt of this debt. More than 130 smaller
utilities across the state will need federal help in the next
six months if they are to survive. It is clear that we
need a solution now. -Written by Michael Carlin, the acting general
manager of the San Francisco Public Utilities Commission.
Even before the pandemic, Americans were already flushing far
too many wipes into the sewer system. After a year of staying
at home, the pipe-clogging problem has gotten worse.
… Sewer backups are up 50%… Last year, Washington
became the first state to pass legislation requiring
manufacturers to label their products with “do not flush”
disclaimers, and states including California have
also introduced bills that would mandate similar labels.
Almost half a million COVID infections could have been
prevented last year if there had been a national moratorium on
water service shutoffs, according to new research from Cornell
University and the national advocacy group Food & Water Watch.
The findings also show that during the same period, from
mid-April through the end of 2020, 9,000 COVID deaths could
have been prevented with a robust moratorium on water shutoffs.
The study found that states that had instituted policies to
prevent water shutoffs reduced the growth rates for COVID
infections and deaths.
Environmental groups are calling for massive spending on an
infrastructure package they view as a generational opportunity
to address climate change, ramping up pressure on Democrats to
deliver on campaign trail promises on clean energy and
environmental justice. As Democrats call for bipartisanship and
Republicans demand a narrower and cheaper bill, greens will be
warning the new congressional majority against giving in to GOP
demands. That tension came to a head yesterday when reports
emerged in The New York Times and The Washington Post that
White House aides were working on an ambitious $3 trillion
infrastructure legislative effort encompassing climate, taxes
and income inequality.
The Division of Boating and Waterways (DBW) today announced
plans for this year’s control efforts for aquatic invasive
plants in the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta and its southern
tributaries. Consistent with COVID-19 safety protocols, DBW
personnel started herbicide treatments today to help control
several invasive plants found in the Delta. … The
invasive plants include water hyacinth, South American
spongeplant, Uruguay water primrose, Alligator weed, Brazilian
waterweed, curlyleaf pondweed, Eurasian watermilfoil, hornwort
(aka coontail), and fanwort.
The Bureau of Reclamation is pleased to announce the selection
of Katrina Grantz as assistant regional director for its
Interior Region 7 — Upper Colorado Basin. Grantz, a 14-year
Reclamation veteran, began her assignment March 14. As
assistant regional director, she will oversee a range of water
and hydropower programs in Arizona, Colorado, New Mexico,
Texas, Utah and Wyoming.
In an effort to address drought and increase local groundwater
supply, the Santa Clara County Valley Water District is
fast-tracking a plan to purify and recycle more water in San
Jose. … But city elected leaders — concerned for the
environment and limited staff resources due to COVID-19 — are
pumping the brakes and want more time to negotiate.
Councilmembers met Friday with Valley Water’s board of
directors for a special meeting to hash out the issue.
ACWA and its member agencies care greatly about water
affordability and recognize the centrality of this issue during
these uniquely challenging times. ACWA is advocating in
Washington, D.C. (already with some success) and in Sacramento
for federal and state funding to help public water systems and
treatment works cover customer arrearages accrued during the
pandemic. This funding is needed quickly — through immediate
action — as opposed to through the legislative process for
long-term policy bills.
Last week, President Biden signed into law a historic,
wide-reaching $1.9 trillion stimulus package aimed at throwing
a lifeline to Americans struggling through the pandemic. In
California, the news has come as a particular relief.
… $16 billion: That’s the amount that is expected
to be split between city and county governments to help make up
for lost local tax revenue during the pandemic. And that’s what
pays for essential services like law enforcement and
firefighters. The money can also be used for water, sewer and
broadband infrastructure projects.
President Biden signed into law a $1.9 trillion COVID-19 relief
package, the American Rescue Plan of 2021, aimed to provide
financial relief to Americans and incentives to stimulate the
economy as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. The latest
package … provides $500 million for low-income water and
wastewater grants. Funds will be allotted to states and tribes
based on percentage of households with income less than 150
percent of the federal poverty line.
There’s a cruel irony to lacking access to quality water as the
sky pours rain, a luxury development’s fountain spews a
waterfall around the corner, and the bay is within walking
distance. Such is the case for the unhoused residents of an
encampment on the border of the California cities of Berkeley
and Emeryville, whom I visited on a March afternoon that cycled
between intermittent showers and partly-cloudy skies. It’s
located along train tracks and near the highway, with no clear
businesses or public facilities in the immediate area that
would be willing to offer a restroom or sink.
For many Californians, water bills are piling up at
unprecedented rates during the pandemic, exacerbating water
affordability issues that disproportionately impact low-income
residents and communities of color. A recent
survey by the California State Water Resources Board,
which was supported by research from the UCLA Luskin
Center for Innovation, shows the extent of water bill debt
accumulation during the COVID-19 pandemic. Households owe a
combined $1 billion in unpaid bills, which has increased
substantially since the pandemic. The report finds that roughly
12% of Californians have overdue payments on their water
The $1.9-trillion relief package signed by President Biden on
Thursday includes $350 billion in aid for states and local
governments, on top of the billions allocated for schools,
transit agencies, health departments and “critical” state and
tribal infrastructure projects. … [T]he funding could be
spent preparing for the next disaster. As we emerge from this
public health emergency, there is surely another emergency
around the corner — and it’s probably going to be connected to
climate change, be it wildfires, flooding or drought.
California has a tremendous backlog of infrastructure and
environmental work to do to make the state more resilient to
climate change and extreme weather.
The massive COVID-19 relief bill Congress approved Wednesday
will pump more than $150 billion into California’s economy,
Gov. Gavin Newsom’s administration said Wednesday, including a
$26 billion windfall for the state’s already burgeoning budget
surplus. … [The U.S. Treasury Department has told state
governments] they can use the money to respond to the public
health emergency, provide government services or invest in
water, sewer or broadband infrastructure.
State residents have been struggling to keep up with their
water bills during the COVID-19 pandemic, but government
officials say help is on the way. Survey results from the State
Water Resources Control Board released in late January estimate
about 1.6 million or 12% of households across the state have
not paid their water bills resulting in an estimated $1 billion
in statewide household water debt. The average household debt
California Water Service’s King City District donated more than
$37,000 to local community organizations in 2020 as part of its
ongoing commitment to improving the quality of life in the
communities it serves. … In addition, to help alleviate some
of the financial strain for customers who lost their jobs or
were otherwise hard-hit financially by the coronavirus
pandemic, the company forgave a portion of past-due water bill
balances for those who fell behind because of the
California’s Governor broke new ground this year when he
committed to “transition away from harmful pesticides.” His
budget proposal to update fees charged on pesticide sales would
generate new funding that could be used to offer better
protections for farm workers, agricultural communities, and
vulnerable ecosystems, as well as help farmers adopt more
sustainable practices. … Pesticides remain a
widespread drinking water contaminant, particularly in
rural areas, and exposure to these pesticides has
been linked to increased vulnerability to COVID-19.
In a time of record-breaking unemployment as a result of the
COVID-19 pandemic, Californians owe an estimated $1 billion in
unpaid water utility bills. With reduced revenue, hundreds of
water utilities are at high risk of financial emergency. The
State Water Board estimates at least 1.6 million households
have an average of roughly $500 in water debt — a crisis that
could lead to a wave of families facing water shutoffs, liens
on their homes or other collection methods. … Data show
Black and Latino households are disproportionately
The pandemic and its economic fallout are affecting many
aspects of water management, while climate change has major
implications. And a much-needed national conversation about
racism has illuminated water equity issues—such as how we
address climate change, safe drinking water, and water
Tens of thousands of Bay Area residents financially impacted
during the COVID-19 crisis now face tens of millions of dollars
in unpaid water bills, prompting both long-term financial and
public health concerns. That’s the conclusion of a new a report
released Thursday by the non-profit public policy organization
SPUR, and that looming potential crisis has experts concerned
about vulnerable customers.