Californians could shell out more money to fix water system

BY Rebecca Jacobson  March 13, 2014 at 6:37 PM EDT
The PPIC graded various sectors of the state’s water system: drinking water, flood protection, stormwater control, wastewater treatment, urban and rural water systems. California got passing grades for drinking water and wastewater treatment. But rural water systems, flood protection and stormwater pollution control in the state were failing. And as many as 10% of the systems key elements were underfunded, the report found. Photo by U.S. Army Corps of Engineers

The PPIC graded various sectors of the state’s water system: drinking water, flood protection, stormwater control, wastewater treatment, urban and rural water systems. California got passing grades for drinking water and wastewater treatment. But rural water systems, flood protection and stormwater pollution control in the state were failing. And as many as 10% of the systems key elements were underfunded, the report found. Photo by U.S. Army Corps of Engineers

Water in California is critically underfunded, according to a new study from the Public Policy Institute of California. The 81-page report estimates that plugging the leaks in the state’s water system could cost an extra $150 to $230 a year per household.

The PPIC graded various sectors of the state’s water system: drinking water, flood protection, stormwater control, wastewater treatment, urban and rural water systems. California got passing grades for drinking water and wastewater treatment. But rural water systems, flood protection and stormwater pollution control in the state were failing. And as many as 10% of the systems key elements were underfunded, the report found.

Stormwater pollution and runoff is a particularly concerning issue for the state. 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.

A large portion of funding for water projects is covered by water and sewer bills and taxes. Federal investment for water projects is likely to drop, which means water customers will end up footing the bill, the report said.

For more on this story, check out Southern California Public Radio’s
coverage.