Article | February 22, 2022

The US Water Alliance Recovering Stronger Team Releases Report On Community-Driven Water Utility Consolidations And Partnerships

The US Water Alliance and partners just released a report entitled Catalyzing Community-Driven Utility Consolidations and Partnerships. Based on an in-depth stakeholder process as part of the Alliance’s Recovering Stronger initiative, the report examines strategies, tactics, and resources for community-driven consolidations and partnerships in the state of California. Though focused on California, this report reveals lessons and ideas that can spark similar dialogues and progress in communities across the nation. The full report can be found online here.
Opportunities for community-driven consolidations and partnerships exist in all 50 states. Tens of thousands of small water systems are spread out across the country, many of which are struggling to provide safe and affordable water, maintain and upgrade their infrastructure, and foster resilience in the face of climate change.

In the face of mounting water stressors, the State of California alone seeks to secure 200 consolidation agreements by 2025 as a key strategy to achieve the state’s water access and resiliency goals. Yet, the sector lacks frameworks for using community-driven processes and environmental justice principles in utility partnership, regionalization, and consolidation efforts. For the millions of Americans without access to safe water, this need is immediate. With the signing of the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act into law, we have a generational opportunity to invest in these kinds of transformational solutions.
In this context, over 30 diverse individuals representing community-based and nonprofit organizations, technical assistance providers, utilities, state governments, engineering and consulting firms, and academia answered the call to articulate what community-driven processes should look like and how to accelerate those processes in California.   

“Conversations about utility cooperation models are picking up, and it’s our responsibility to ensure those dialogues reflect the imperative of centering equity and bolstering democratic and equitable processes and outcomes,” says Mami Hara, US Water Alliance CEO. “This report is for all those who share those values and need a place to start.”

“We are already implementing many concrete strategies this process advanced and using this as an opportunity to continue to improve and evolve as a state partner. This has been especially valuable as we work to do justice to the transformational opportunity we have with the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act’s unprecedented level of funding,” notes Laurel Firestone, California State Water Resources Control Board member.

“In California, we know that 80 percent of our failing water systems are small. Connecting these systems to nearby systems that are able to provide safe water is often the most efficient and inexpensive option, but it cannot be done without robust community engagement,” noted Juliet Christian-Smith, Water Foundation senior program officer. “This report lays out a roadmap to doing that well. We are now using this roadmap in California to drive more inclusive consolidation and partnership processes.”

To learn more about the Alliance's commitment to equitable consolidations and partnerships, read a blog post written by US Water Alliance Director of Strategic Initiatives Emily Simonson here.