Cástulo Estrada, Vice President of the Board of Directors of Coachella Valley Water District, has been reappointed to the Safe and Affordable Drinking Water Fund Advisory Group, as announced by the State Water Resources Control Board (SWRCB).
“I have witnessed and experienced the deficiencies endured by our communities as they relate to drinking water,” Estrada said. “I am very proud of the work we have accomplished, there is a great deal more to do. I am grateful to continue to work through this effort to implement long-term solutions.”
This will be Estrada’s second term on the advisory group. Following the enactment of SB200 (Monning) in 2019, which established the Safe and Affordable Drinking Water Fund, the SWRCB established the Safe and Affordable Funding for Equity and Resilience (SAFER) Program. The SAFER Program centralizes many of the Water Board’s programs targeting disadvantaged community water systems, including grant making, technical studies, and public outreach.
The fund provides $130 million a year, for 10 years, to assist the approximately one million Californians who do not have access to safe and affordable drinking water.
Throughout 2020, the Advisory Group has given direction and identified priorities to implement this funding. The Group has worked to engage stakeholders in public processes to review and comment on several documents supporting the Program, including the Policy for the Annual Fund Expenditure Plan, draft cost assessments, draft risk assessments, draft affordability assessments as well as the Division of Water Quality’s Groundwater Ambient Monitoring and Assessment (GAMA) Program. These several whitepapers will eventually inform funding decisions as failing and at-risk water systems apply for SB200 grants under the SAFER umbrella.
Estrada, who has been on the CVWD board since 2014, has made providing safe drinking water to Disadvantaged Communities (DACs) his top priority.
“Through this effort we can identify and obtain grant funding to address these critical needs,” Estrada said. “I’m honored to help drive this process to expedite issuing grant funding to find solutions for our community.”
In 2016, CVWD, with the help of Estrada, formed the DAC Infrastructure Task Force to address water-related needs in the Eastern Coachella Valley. The task force has identified and prioritized 83 small, private water systems that are eligible to consolidate with CVWD’s domestic water system. Many of the small water systems have elevated levels of arsenic, nitrates and fluoride. The next steps will include acquiring grant funding to execute the projects, which are expected to cost approximately $80 million.