The State Water Resources Control Board has awarded the California State University $2.3 million to support the university’s effort to help California’s underserved and disadvantaged communities manage their water more effectively.
The funding will help to establish a statewide Disadvantaged Communities Center, which will bring students and faculty experts together to provide water management assistance to the state’s most vulnerable communities. The program will help California’s underserved communities to become sustainable in ongoing drought conditions while offering experiential learning opportunities for students.
The center will operate under the CSU Chancellor’s Office charter for the Water Resources and Policy Initiatives (WRPI), which leverages the expertise of about 250 researchers from throughout the CSU to help solve the state’s complex water issues.
The State Water Board will be identifying disadvantaged communities in need of assistance and assigning them to the center, which will work with local campuses, environmental justice groups and subcontractors to develop solutions to their individual needs.
“These needs range from septic to sewer line hookups to identifying and evaluating solutions to contaminated groundwater supplies,” said WRPI Director Boykin Witherspoon. “When water experts from local CSU campuses collaborate with community leaders, we can develop solutions to these and other water management problems and improve the lives of thousands of Californians during our current drought and well into the future.”
Students and faculty from many different departments including social sciences, public administration, engineering, economics and accounting will also be lending their expertise. The multi-disciplinary approach allows for technical assistance across the life cycle of a project by helping communities manage associated duties including grant writing, pre-engineering, construction, equipment maintenance, economic analysis and audit preparation.
A portion of the three-year grant, part of California’s Proposition 1 State Water Resources Control Board’s Water Bond Technical Assistance Funding Program, will fund paid internships for students.
“Many of our students come from the very communities this new center is designed to serve,” said Witherspoon. “The opportunity to train the next generation of water leaders to be empowered to return to their communities and help develop long-term, sustainable solutions to water and energy needs of these communities is unprecedented.”
The Disadvantaged Communities Center is currently assisting communities in California and is prepared to work with them and others for years to help ensure proposed solutions are more sustainable through stable governance and improved community outreach.
The center is located on the campus of CSU San Bernardino, which also houses WRPI. Through WRPI, the CSU is changing the way California manages water. Since the group was created in 2008, it has spearheaded a number of grants and initiatives aimed at educating California’s future water professionals, expanding industry and university partnerships, and advancing water technology.