Topic: Coronavirus

Overview

Coronavirus

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. 

Aquafornia news Water World

Opinion: Keeping water affordable

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.

Aquafornia news Bloomberg

Pandemic wipes create sewer-clogging fatbergs

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.

Aquafornia news Food and Water Watch

News release: Almost 500,000 COVID Infections May Have Been Prevented with a National Water Shutoff Moratorium

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. 

Aquafornia news E&E News

‘Big structural change’: What greens want on infrastructure

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.

Aquafornia news California Division Of Boating And Waterways

News release: Division of Boating and Waterways begins control efforts in the Delta for aquatic invasive plants

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.

Aquafornia news U.S. Bureau of Reclamation

News release: Reclamation names Katrina Grantz Upper Colorado Basin assistant regional director

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.

Aquafornia news Patch, San Jose Spotlight

San Jose pumps the brakes on Valley Water water-recycling plan

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.

Aquafornia news Association of California Water Agencies

Blog: ACWA weighs in on state water affordability legislation

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.

Related article:

Aquafornia news The New York Times

What’s in the federal stimulus for Californians?

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.

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Aquafornia news Best Best & Krieger

Blog: COVID-19 relief package provides substantial aid to states, counties and cities

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.

Aquafornia news Filter

Unhoused Berkeley, CA residents struggle for water during pandemic

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.

Aquafornia news UCLA Luskin

Blog: California households owe $1 billion in water bills, highlighting affordability crisis

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 bills. 

Aquafornia news Los Angeles Times

Editorial: How California cities should use COVID relief federal aid

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. 

Aquafornia news KCRA3

California could get $150B from federal virus relief bill

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.

Aquafornia news Eureka Times-Standard

Jared Huffman: Support is needed to help pay water bills

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 is $500. 

Aquafornia news The King City Rustler

Cal Water’s King City District donates $37,000 in community support

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 pandemic. 

Aquafornia news NRDC

Blog: California proposes to transition away from toxic pesticides

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.

Aquafornia news The Sacramento Bee

Wednesday Top of the Scroll: California residents owe $1 billion in water debt. Shutoffs coming?

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 affected. 

Related articles: 

Aquafornia news Public Policy Institute of California

Report: California’s future – water and a changing climate

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 scarcity.

Aquafornia news NBC Bay Area

Water bill debt soars during pandemic, prompting fears of future shutoffs

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. 

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