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Informational Resources

Strategies to Address Disadvantaged Communities’ Water Needs

Additional Information Resources


Affordability and Capability Issues of Small Water and Wastewater Systems: A Case for Regionalization of Small Systems
Deb Martin, Director, Great Lakes Rural Community Assistance Partnership

This report explains the concept of regionalizing small water systems, which can range from the consolidation of two or more systems to administrative arrangements such as cooperative purchasing, contract operations, or billing. It examines why systems may want to consider regionalization, the barriers to it, a model of successful regionalization, and recommendations for overcoming barriers and achieving successful regional solutions.


Colonias at the New Mexico / Mexico Border: A Strategy for Transformation (March 20, 2008)
State of New Mexico

The State of New Mexico conducted research on current housing conditions in colonias to better understand the nature of colonias, the challenges they face, and the potential for improvement and implementing solutions. The findings are offered in this report, which proposes design and implementation strategies for ameliorating the poverty and inadequate living conditions, including addressing the lack of water and wastewater services. Topics include colonias’ socio-economic profiles, colonias types, affordability strategies for housing and basic services (electricity, water), and six rules for transforming colonias into better places to live. Case studies of successes are offered throughout.

Rural Water Infrastructure: Improved Coordination and Funding Processes Could Enhance Federal Efforts to Meet Needs in the U.S. -- Mexico Border Region (December 2009)
US Government Accountability Office (GAO)

GAO was asked to determine the amount of federal funding provided to rural U.S. communities in the US-Mexico border region, and the effectiveness of federal efforts to meet drinking water and wastewater needs there. As a result of its study, GAO recommends that federal agencies develop a coordinated plan to improve the effectiveness of their interventions, and that the agencies improve their compliance with statutory and regulatory requirements. Some of the agencies indicate that they believe they are in compliance did not fully agree with this recommendation.


Meeting the Access Goal: Strategies for Increasing Access to Safe Drinking Water and Wastewater Treatment to American Indian and Alaska Native Homes (Draft, March 2008)
Prepared by the Infrastructure Task Force Access Subgroup - US Environmental Protection Agency, Indian Health Service, US Department of Agriculture, Department of Housing and Urban Development

Approximately 13 percent of American Indian/Alaska Native homes do not have safe water and/or wastewater disposal facilities, and this high lack of access threatens the public health of tribal communities. To address this problem and meet the U.S. goal of reducing the number of tribal homes without access to basic water and sanitation services by 50 percent by 2015, the U.S. Government established the Infrastructure Task Force Access Subgroup. This report provides background information about tribal needs, discusses the goals and objectives of the Task Force, and describes barriers and solutions to the lack of access problem. These include infrastructure funding, operation and maintenance costs and tribal utility capacity, and programmatic coordination.

Meeting the Access Goal Progress to Date: Implementation of Strategies for Increasing Access to Safe Drinking Water and Basic Sanitation to American Indian and Alaska Native Homes (December 2010)
Prepared by the Infrastructure Task Force Access Subgroup - US Environmental Protection Agency, Indian Health Service, US Department of Agriculture, Department of Housing and Urban Development

This report summarizes the accomplishments of the Infrastructure Task Force on Access to Sanitation, formed in 2003, to address the lack of access to safe drinking water and basic sanitation in Indian Country by reducing the number of tribal homes without access by 50 percent 2015.


Disadvantaged Communities Visioning Workshop -- December 3-5, 2014
Recommendations (January 31, 2015) (California)

To address the growing gap in California between activities of the traditional water community and the water-related needs of people who live and work in disadvantaged communities, the California Department of Water Resources initiated projects with representatives of impacted by the issues to identify more effective means of engaging with and responding to disadvantaged communities’ water-related needs. This report offers recommendations from these projects, conducted over three years, and offers a roadmap for each set of recommendations including identifying a vision for change, barriers to the change, and objectives for implementing the vision. Topics addresses are Disadvantaged Community Identification, Coordination, Agency Alignment, Capacity Building and Technical Assistance, Education, Disproportionate Impacts, Governance and Representation, and Funding.

Disadvantaged Community Outreach Evaluation Study: An Analysis of Technical Assistance and Outreach Methods (December 30, 2013)
California Department of Water Resources and the Council for Watershed Health

The study two goals were to (1) develop tools for understanding the diversity of challenges and characteristics of selected communities in the Greater Los Angeles County and (2) identify critically needed projects in the five sub-regions of the county’s Integrated Regional Water Management region. Methods used were a regional needs assessment framework, a mixed qualitative and quantitative method for assessing community boundaries, and a multi-indicator assessment framework for understanding individual community challenges. The report describes efforts to bring disadvantaged urban communities into the integrated water management project selection and planning process, and identifies tools and strategies for better engaging with and meeting the specific needs of disadvantaged communities.

Water Boards’ Small Community Wastewater Strategy (Staff Document) (June 16, 2008)
California State Water Resources Control Board

This document provides an overview of the wastewater problems faced by California’s small and/or disadvantaged communities--ranging from failing septic and wastewater systems to poverty, rural locations, and small populations, to lack of economics of scale and lack of expertise--and suggests solutions to address those problems. Recommended solutions include those related to financial assistance, technical assistance, and regulations and enforcement. Annual updates to the 2008 Strategy can be found at: http://www.waterboards.ca.gov/water_issues/programs/grants_loans/small_community_wastewater_

Water Assistance for Disadvantaged Communities (January 30, 2013)
By Brian Haddix, David F. Zoldoske, Karl Longley, and Sarge Green.
In All One Water, an online water news clearinghouse (originally appeared in May/June 2011 issue of Water Efficiency)

This article provides an overview of the water and wastewater problems faced by California’s small, rural, economically disadvantaged communities, and describes California State University’s proposed Center for Disadvantaged Community Water Assistance. The Center’s mission will be to assist small drinking and wastewater systems to improve their technical, financial, managerial, and organizational components, and to help communities consolidate smaller, less efficient systems together into a larger, viable service area.

California Disadvantaged Communities in Need (February 26, 2015)

California State University presentation to the EPA Office of Groundwater and Drinking Water outlining the challenges faced by California’s small water systems, low cost solutions to these problems, including the planned services and on-site strategies provided by the CSU Center for Disadvantaged Community Water Assistance.

One Water One Watershed (OWOW) 2.0 Plan, Santa Ana River Watershed
Santa Ana Watershed Project Authority

This report describes California’s Santa Ana River Watershed’s “One Water One Watershed” 2.0 plan, which is its integrated regional water management plan. It emphasizes a collaborative planning process across all aspect of water resources including future water demands and supplies; jurisdictions and political boundaries; multiple stakeholders, agencies, groups and individuals; and communicating directly with disadvantaged and tribal communities. Chapter 5, Section 11 of this document focuses on “Disadvantaged and Tribal Communities (http://www.sawpa.org/wp-content/uploads/2014/01/5.11-Disadvantages-and-Tribal-Community_FINAL.pdf), and discusses barriers, including language, cultural, and isolation, and stresses the importance of knowing the people who live in these communities.

Paying for Water in California (March 2014)
By Public Policy Institute of California

This project examines California’s water funding challenges and potential solutions for achieving sustainable water resource and water system management, and supplying water for all uses (including domestic, industrial, agricultural, firefighting; water resource protection; flood management; aquatic ecosystem protection). The report examines how well California is meeting current water management goals, identifies areas where lack of funding inhibits success, discusses option for filling the current funding gaps, and makes recommendation for how California can put its water management goals on a more solid financial foundation.

Connecting rural water systems to State funds (California) (27 June, 2014)
By Katie Vane, In The Sheet Weekly Newspaper, Mammoth Lakes, CA

News story about an integrated water management approach for seeking funding and providing support to water systems in disadvantaged communities and tribes in the California counties of Inyo and Mono.


Community Water Center

Acts as a catalyst for community-driven water solutions through organizing, education, and advocacy in California’s San Joaquin Valley. To address the multiple root causes of water challenges, the Community Water Center is guided by a model of change that uses three strategies: Community Organizing & Capacity Building; Communications & Sharing of Information, Research & Expertise; and Advocacy. Resources offered by the Community Water Center, including “community tools,” can be found at: http://www.communitywatercenter.org/publications_resources

Center for Disadvantaged Community Water Assistance (California State University)
California State University’s Water Resources and Policy Initiatives website

Provides links to reports and newsletters about the Center for Disadvantaged Community Water Assistance.

Agua4All Pilot: Safe Water Access in Schools and Communities (2015)
The California Endowment, in conjunction with Rural Community Assistance Corporation, Community Water Center, and Pueblo Unido CDC
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/Agua4All

Agua4All is a pilot project to raise awareness about the lack of safe drinking water in California schools and communities. It creates public-private partnerships to install water taps in areas where water is scarce, and advocates for sustainable long-term drinking water solutions.


Alabama Center for Rural Enterprise (ACRE) CDC, Inc.
Catherine Flowers, Director and Founder

The Alabama Center for Rural Enterprise is a non-profit organization. Its mission is to “promote sustainable initiative to strengthen the infrastructure of families in rural and impoverished communities through participatory involvement.” The organization contends that poor sanitation, water pollution and other environmental factors pose a health risk to communities, and that these third world conditions should not exist in America. Its work focuses on wastewater solutions, economic development, financial education, and housing. ACRE is considered a model for addressing economic development in one of the poorest areas of the U.S. ACRE has aggressively worked to address the inadequate disposal of raw sewage in Lowndes County, AL and to promote the use and development of affordable, appropriate technologies.


People’s Water Board

The People’s Water Board is a Detroit-based coalition of labor, social justice, environmental, and conservation organizations who believe that water is a human right and advocates for access, protection, and conservation of water. Its goals are to place a moratorium on water shutoffs for Detroit’s low-income families, restore water services, and implement a Water Affordability Plan.