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Imagine a Day Without Water

“Imagine a Day Without Water” is an annual campaign that seeks to educate the public about the essential role water plays in our lives. In a state as prosperous as California, many have the luxury to never have to contemplate such a thing. When most of us fill our coffeemakers, irrigate our gardens, bathe our children or wash our clothes, water is never in doubt, as reliable as it’s always been.

Yet, for an estimated 1 million Californians, doubts about water are inescapable. As much as we may bristle at the idea, water in California has been a tale of the haves and have-nots for far too long. When the state is gripped by drought and the volatility of climate change, the chasm grows ever wider, more daunting, more unfair.

At the State Water Board, making water safe and affordable for all Californians while being good stewards of the environment are things that motivate us every day. They’re at the forefront of the programs we run and  the decisions we make -- encouraging water conservation during the drought, making the tough choices about diversions from our watersheds to protect the environment and endangered aquatic species, getting to the bottom of chemical contaminants that have emerged in our water supplies and could pose a serious threat to all of us in the years to come.

Our Safe and Affordable Funding for Equity and Resilience (SAFER) program is making major inroads in that regard. With a 10-year mandate to transform California water and find permanent solutions so vulnerable communities have access to safe and affordable drinking water, this is not something the State Water Board can do on its own. In fact, SAFER is the collective responsibility of water systems, non-profit organizations, governments, a community advisory board, and other stakeholders to work together to develop and implement solutions. SAFER uses a set of tools, funding sources, and regulatory authorities to set priorities, create plans and finance projects large and small. Along the way, we work with local partners to ensure temporary water solutions, including bottled water and water-filling kiosks.

The long-term success stories are already adding up. Water system consolidations are a key part of this momentum – getting a struggling system to consolidate with a nearby one that’s operating successfully can be a victory for all involved. With 617 systems at risk of failing and another 339 systems on the Human Right to Water List (out of about 8,000 systems in the state), the potential to be more efficient with water treatment and delivery is enormous.

Since late 2016, there have been 178 such consolidations, as this map illustrates. Staff has sent letters to about 600 more systems recommending consolidations. Internally, we’re tackling another 175 consolidation projects.

While the State Water Board now has the legal authority to require consolidations in certain cases, we strongly prefer voluntary consolidations. What’s encouraging is that big players are embracing consolidations and taking a broader, more inclusive view of planning for the future that means greater water security for everyone. Water systems such as Diablo Valley Water Agency, Coachella Valley Water District, Placer County Water Agency and the municipal systems of Modesto, Fresno, Stockton, Crescent City and others have stepped up to support consolidation efforts. This is the kind of cooperation and forward thinking we can build on.

We’re not there yet and SAFER is no quick fix. But month by month and year by year, we’re building a trove of success stories so that someday no Californian will have to experience a day without water.

Porterville Water Supply Project
First home in East Porterville connects to municipal water
Porterville Water Supply Project
Connection laid between Castle City Mobile Home Park and Placer County Water Agency
Pratt MWC
Celebrating the consolidation of Matheny Tract with the City of Tulare
Porterville Water Supply Project
Mapping connection from Westside School to Coachella Valley Water District