News Feature | March 20, 2014

California's Other Water Crisis: Infrastructure Funding

Sara Jerome

By Sara Jerome


California's massive shortages in water infrastructure funding mean ratepayers may be forced to pay higher bills, according to a recent study. 

In an 81-page report, authors from the Public Policy Institute of California (PPIC) "suggest federal money for water projects is likely to diminish – so if there’s a need to pass the hat for more funding, water consumers -- including residential, farm and business interests -- are likely to foot the bill,” Southern California Public Radio reported

The study examined five particular areas where money is lacking. 

"California faces serious funding gaps in key areas of water management—including safe drinking water in small, disadvantaged communities; flood protection; management of stormwater and other polluted runoff; aquatic ecosystem management; and integrated water management," the report said. 

How bad is it? "These gaps amount to $2 billion to $3 billion a year," the report said.

Stormwater pollution and runoff are among the most pressing problems. 

"The PPIC report estimates that local water agencies have stable funding for half of the annual costs of stormwater projects. Runoff from rainstorms carries harmful chemicals from fertilizers, pesticides and even chromium 6 into underground aquifers. In turn, that affects another system that the PPIC found lacking: groundwater storage and treatment," PBS reported

"On the flood protection front – a front experienced by many as 25 percent of California’s population lives in a floodplain – investing an additional $800 million to $1 billion is needed in costly infrastructure upgrades," California Economy Reporting said

Most funding problems emerge at the local level, according to report author Ellen Hanak. 

“We’re suggesting some reforms that just give some more flexibility there, so that you’re still accountable and transparent but you have some more flexibility to manage the water resources the way they really should be managed,” she told Valley Public Radio

Only a portion of the new funding is needed to combat the state's most press water concern: the drought. 

"Rural communities heavily rely on ground water, but this source is often contaminated. Anywhere between $30 million to $160 million in additional state funds would be needed to 'adequately address this problem,'" a summary of the report noted. 

Image credit: "2008_04_biketrail_infrastructure_135," © 2008 dsearls, used under an Attribution-ShareAlike 2.0 Generic license:

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