ACWA Advocacy Wins Fill Successful 2021

  • by Dave Eggerton
  • Dec 17, 2021
  • Voices on Water

The past year sets the bar high in terms of ACWA advocacy in partnership with our member agencies. Working together, we delivered on a long list of goals outlined in our Five Year Strategic Plan, especially in the area of state and federal advocacy. 

Most recently, our team in Washington D.C. worked with a national coalition to secure passage of a bipartisan infrastructure package that will provide $8.3 billion for Western water infrastructure, $3.3 billion for wildfire mitigation as well as $2.1 billion for ecosystem restoration and $55 billion for drinking water.

This monumental achievement would not have been possible without the dedication and hard work of so many of our members who have joined us at our nation’s capital year after year, advocating for the needs of our aging water systems for which the vast majority of repair costs have fallen on local water agencies and their ratepayers for decades. I know many of you have worked each and every day through your representatives in Congress to raise awareness of this critically important issue and to spur action on federal investment. 

Those many efforts are about to pay big dividends for local water agencies and some of their highest priority capital projects. Paralleling the exciting recent news from the federal level, ACWA’s advocates in Sacramento achieved a long list of wins through their collaboration with member agencies and elected officials. This work played a key role in securing $3 billion in state funding for water infrastructure and drought resilience projects. At the same time, ACWA collaborated to secure $1.5 billion in state funding for headwaters and wildfire resilience, another long-term association priority in protecting Californians’ water supply and environment.

Water infrastructure and drought resilience work has remained a top priority within the ACWA community over many decades. However, no one predicted a global pandemic. 

One of the countless impacts from COVID-19 in 2020 included a state-mandated suspension of water service shutoffs, potentially leaving water and wastewater agencies with water debt soaring into the hundreds of millions of dollars. With the California Municipal Utilities Association playing a leadership role, ACWA and other statewide water associations successfully advocated for $985 million in funding to assist with COVID-19 related water customer arrearages, funded by part of California’s share of Federal American Rescue Plan dollars.

ACWA also sponsored its own legislation, through SB 323 (Caballero, D-Salinas). Now law, this  will provide a 120-day statute of limitations for challenges to water and sewer rates, which had been virtually open-ended and interfered with the ability of agencies to engage in long-term financial planning for needed projects.

I do not have space to list all of ACWA’s advocacy wins, which is a great problem to have. However, our work together with our member agencies helped obtain $180 million in state funding for Sustainable Groundwater Management Act Implementation. We also worked to stop legislation that would have proved unreasonably burdensome for members. 

Reviewing our Strategic Plan and matching its goals against tremendous progress made over the past year, I feel a mixture of excitement and confidence entering 2022. A dedicated ACWA staff working in collaboration with an engaged membership continues to produce outcomes that benefit not only the California water community, but all Californians.

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