State Water Board Staff Present Results of Survey on COVID-19 Financial Impacts by ACWA Staff Jan 20, 2021 Water News State Water Resources Control Board staff on Tuesday presented the results of two statewide surveys on the COVID-19 financial impacts on California water systems, estimating at least $600 million in customer drinking water debt. The survey results were presented to the State Water Board during a public meeting. The intent of the surveys was to give the State Water Board data regarding the financial impacts of COVID-19 on drinking water systems, including details about the amount of money that customers owe to water systems since the April 2, 2020 Executive Order suspending water service shutoffs. “The findings in our survey give us the first clear picture of the impacts on Californians and our community water systems,” E. Joaquin Esquivel, Chair of the State Water Board, stated in a news release. “Results of this survey are critical data points to inform state and federal policymakers as we consider additional relief options for water systems and community members.” State Water Board staff estimated “household debt” as at least $1 billion, but that estimate included debt for other services, such as electricity and trash services that are all included on one bill at some utilities. “ACWA appreciates the hard work and collaborative effort undertaken by the State Water Board staff in conducting the surveys. It is no surprise that the water debt estimates are significant, and they underline the need to obtain additional COVID-19 water-related financial assistance,” said ACWA Deputy Executive Director for Government Relations Cindy Tuck. ACWA collaborated with the State Water Board and other organizations in the preparation of the survey questions. During the public meeting, Tuck encouraged Gov. Gavin Newsom and his Administration to advocate with stakeholders in Washington, D.C. for such federal funding. ACWA has been actively engaged in a federal coalition advocating for financial COVID-19 relief for water systems and their customers. Tuck also noted at the meeting that ACWA member agencies have an excellent track record of working with their customers on payment plans. Among the results presented, staff estimated that 1.6 million households have some level of water debt. Of those, an estimated 155,094 accounts have debt over $1,000, and that number may include debt for other utility services beyond water (e.g., electricity and trash services). The State Water Board staff estimate that up to 25 small/medium water systems may require emergency financial assistance within six months. Many systems reported that they were taking steps to reduce costs, including delaying capital improvement projects, to protect financial stability The survey results were based on 406 responses from small and medium water systems with fewer than 10,000 connections and 131 responses from large systems with more than 10,000 connections. ACWA encouraged member agencies that were contacted as part of the survey efforts to participate. ACWA staff will continue to engage in this issue and keep members apprised. ACWA has a working group that is providing input on issues related to the suspension of shutoffs, including the financial impacts and federal and state action.