(BCN)– Four small Bay Area drinking water systems will receive millions of dollars as part of California’s effort to protect water deliveries as the drought drags into its fourth year. On Tuesday, the California Department of Water Resources announced $44 million in statewide Small Community Drought Relief Program grants about $6.5 million of which is earmarked for four water systems in Santa Clara, Solano and Sonoma counties.
The program is aimed at small systems with fewer than 3,000 service connections that are most likely to suffer from aging infrastructure and often rely on a single source of water. “Small communities are the most vulnerable to the impacts of our new hotter, drier climate and lack the resources to immediately deal with these challenges,” DWR Director Karla Nemeth said in a news release.
In Santa Clara County, the unincorporated community of Chemeketa Park in the Santa Cruz Mountains will receive $1.8 million to replace four leaking storage tanks and expand storage at its water treatment plant. “It’s really awesome, everyone is really excited,” said Chemeketa Park Mutual Water Company water master Miles Farmer.
“The community worked really hard to fill out the grant paperwork and some of the residents carved out a bunch of time to make it happen.” Farmer said the state has improved the application process to make it easier for small, volunteer-governed systems like Chemeketa’s which has just 150 service connections to access grants they’d typically miss out on in years past.
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The new tanks will take maybe a year to install and will add much-needed resiliency for at least the next 30 years, he said. “This has just changed everything for us,” Farmer said.
In Sonoma County, the Park Royal Mutual Water Company is receiving about $1.7 million to replace aging pipes and other system components and the Diamond A Mutual Water Company will get $2 million for pipe replacement. Park Royal serves 27 homes just west of Santa Rosa from one well that is over the limit for state arsenic standards.
While system operators are currently studying the possibility of connecting the community to the Santa Rosa water system, they also need to upgrade and modernize aging infrastructure. “We still are going to need to deliver water to 27 homes,” said Park Royal Mutual Water Company board president Erin Fender.
“The majority of this grant is going to re-pipe our neighborhood for the delivery system.” “It’s a game changer,” Fender said.
“This is one of the few times when government is really working.” In Solano County, the Collinsville Water Works will use its $916,000 grant for a new well.
Since its 2021 inception, the grant program has given out nearly $262 million statewide. “These continued investments from the state strengthen local partnerships to provide reliable drinking water for all Californians because everyone has the human right to water,” Nemeth said.
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