Update on California’s Needs Assessment and Drinking Water Fund

This week, California’s Legislative Analyst’s Office published a report summarizing the progress and remaining needs of California’s $130 million Safe and Affordable Drinking Water (SADW) Fund and the Safe and Affordable Funding for Equity and Resilience (SAFER) program. Both initiatives were established to work together to address the more than one million Californians who currently Financial Assistance Programs - Grants and Loans | California State Water Quality Control Boardlack access to safe drinking water, primarily because they receive water from systems and domestic wells that do not consistently meet those established standards. The programs are also aiming to address affordability issues in the states, as some residents pay in excess of 5 percent of their income on their water bills, more than double the affordability threshold of 2.5% MHI used by EPA. California’s small systems struggle the most and drinking water problems disproportionately affect Latino, rural, and lower‑income communities in the state. The SAFER program is performing a comprehensive statewide needs assessment, expected to be completed by June 2021 and planned expenditures from the SADW Fund in 2020‑21 include construction ($49 million), technical assistance ($30 million), and emergency water supplies and interim solutions ($19 million).