IRWM plans provide the means to ensure the needs of disadvantaged communities (DACs) and their water supply and water quality issues are being met. A DAC is defi ned as a community, including cities, towns or counties, or a reasonably isolated and divisible segment of a larger municipality, that has an annual median household income that is less than 80 percent of the statewide annual median household income.
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Many lack the staff or fi nancial resources to develop water projects and process grant applications and contracts. Including these communities in an IRWM plan provides an opportunity to identify, document and prioritize failing infrastructure in economically disadvantaged communi- ties, and provides a source of technical guidance and review that can enable DACs to be successful in getting cleaner water. Securing grant dollars can help DACs meet their goals and build capital projects. There may be no better way to serve the needs of the DACs than including them in an IRWM plan.
RWMGs need to involve the entities necessary to develop and implement an IRWM Plan and that may include DAC issues. From the grant program perspective, there is a preference for projects that meet the critical water supply or water quality needs of a DAC and DWR has an obligation to fund a certain amount of such projects.
The Community Water Center in Visalia, which advocates for DACs, believes that when DACs are not part of putting together project priority lists in a meaningful way, they lose the opportunity to have their water needs known and planned for. They also lose the opportunity to seek joint solutions with others in their region and obtain funding.
Because of that, the Community Water Center believes
there is a need to ensure that collaborative efforts of planning and funding for the region are relevant and useful for DACs. In order to do that, they say the IRWM plans must have better information on the water-related needs of DACs and provide the opportunity to establish partnerships that are not just useful for funding but support collaborative efforts that lead to multi-benefi t projects and allow the region to plan for and address all its water needs.
There is concern that the IRWM application process requires a substantial amount of information for a project to be submitted for funding and that many DACs lack the expertise to provide that type of information.
The Kings Basin IRWM Plan includes approximately 90 unique DACs, which have critical water supply and water quality needs. A Kings Basin Water Authority regional study on DAC water issues, to be completed in 2013, will engage DACs, identify water, sewer and storm drain issues and develop potential projects to address their water supply problems.
In Northern California, the Yuba County IRWM Plan executive summary includes awareness of the issue: “Households in much of the plan area have a low annual income and have been identified as disadvantaged by the state. Historically, the low population base and limited fi nancial resources have presented challenges to the area to fund and implement water management projects and programs.”
On the North Coast in Humboldt County, among the DAC projects receiving state grant funding in 2011 were the Happy Camp Water Treatment System Upgrade, Indian Creek Sewer Pipeline Crossing and Lower Russian River Water Quality Improvement Management Project.
Native American Tribal Communities
Addressing the needs of Native American tribal commu- nities can be a challenge for IRWM planning for a variety of reasons, including issues of fi nances, time and general staff availability, a reticence on the part of tribes to en- gage in the process (with some tribes citing mistrust), a lack of shared understanding of tribal sovereignty, or historic bad feelings between the tribe and participating agencies or with other tribes in the region. Those familiar with the dynamic say there is uniqueness in working with Native Americans that is not always appreciated or understood.
Work is ongoing to incorporate tribes’ water needs into IRWM planning. One of the “pillars” of SAWPA’s “One Water One Watershed” governance structure is devoted to the interests of Native American Tribes. Those who are part of that process say an important element in establishing trust between state and local planners and tribal representatives is to open the door to cooperative projects.
For that to occur, it is important for water planners to do their homework about a particular tribe to help them
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