The California Department of Water Resources (DWR) announced on Friday that $49 million has been allocated for a new round of local assistance to help stave off drought and improve water infrastructure as the third drought year begins to head toward warmer temperatures.
In total, 18 Small Community Drought Relief programs were announced in the sixth round programs. In conjunction with the State Water Resources Control Board, the DWR focused on finding economically disadvantaged communities most in need of water infrastructure help.
The largest recipient, the Yurok tribe in Del Norte County near the Oregon border, is to receive $12.6 million to consolidate neighboring systems, lay down 10 miles of pipelines and get two new pump stations. Other tribes, such as the Kashia Band of Pomo Indians in Sonoma County, and the the Manchester Band of Pomo Indians, Round Valley Indian Tribe, and Yokayo Tribe in Mendocino County, will also get funding for water projects.
Besides native tribes, many water districts in the hard hit Central Valley are to receive funding, as will multiple communities that need to fix leaks in current systems or have to begin hauling in water due to water supplies in the area running out. Some cities, such as Redwood Valley in Mendocino County, are to simply receive funds for new wells.
While the locations for projects are all over California, from Del Norte County in the North, to Ventura County in the South, to communities nearby Nevada, most of the newly allotted programs are located either just north of the Bay Area and Sacramento or in the Central Valley.
While the drought relief program is largely business as usual for the DWR at this point, 2022 has been forecast as a particularly bad drought year for the state, meaning that water projects, especially those that would ferry water to far-reaching communities and help improve water gathering programs to areas outside of population centers, could bring a political factor with them this year.
“Any area that faces massive water restrictions or is beginning cut into their normal and everyday lives, such as non-watering days for lawns and bans on car washes is going to let their representative hear about it, either for Congress or at the state level in the Assembly or Senate,” said Carlos Rivera, a private water project contractor in Fresno County, to the Globe on Friday. “These DWR funds, $49 million may not sound like a lot but a fraction of that it can be all the world for a town that faces massive water shortages. And areas that need it and don’t get it, well, they can help force the issue with the ballot box if needed.
“California is focusing on housing and homelessness and COVID and crime and all that right now, but for more rural areas, water can be the deciding factor. And we may see that start to influence elections this year if more of these programs don’t spring up.”
The DWR is expected to release more rounds of water infrastructure funding later this year.
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