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Plotting Our Future Course

CalMutuals JPRIMA & CalMutuals Leaders & Members at May 2019 Small MWC Workshop

Gathering in the Desert Highlights Year’s Successes and Plots Future Course

CalMutuals members came from all over the region on May 16-17 for the CalMutuals-JPRIMA annual meeting in Cabazon, California. Discussions were invigorating and supportive, especially during the first-ever mutual water companies quarterly-workshop held in conjunction with the meeting.

Travel grants were offered to more than 80 mutual water companies in Riverside and San Bernardino Counties. The robust attendance ensured lively dialogue about the operations and challenges shared by small systems, especially during a discussion led by a panel of managers from Del Rio, Banning Heights, Tract 180 and Oak Glen mutual water companies. From the discussion came an identification of key challenges faced by small mutual water companies as well as an action list of potential programs that CalMutuals-JPRIMA staff will explore further:

  1. Rates:  Helping to educate board members and shareholders about the role that rates play in a water company’s long-term sustainability
  2. Grants:  Creating organizational infrastructure at CalMutuals JPRIMA for identifying and applying for grants for the organization and our members
  3. Policy:  Building a library of templates covering important areas of policy including:
    – Company governing documents and management/operational policies
    – Continued work to insure awareness and compliance with local, state and federal regulations
    – Educational resources for understanding the role & responsibilities of board members

We also heard from attendees how important networking and idea exchange opportunities are for mutual water company officials, especially those from smaller companies who don’t have time or resources to interact with their peers often.

Look out for the upcoming CalMutuals quarterly workshop that will be scheduled for the fall in Paso Robles.

CalMutuals Members Urge State Senators for Tax Relief

Only one bill seeking a water-related tax exemption made it out of the State Senate Appropriations process this month — and it was ours!

Pictured left to right: Jim Byerrum, President CalMutuals JPRIMA, Lynda Noriega-California Domestic Water Company, Dave Armstrong- Vice President CalMutuals, South Mesa Water Company

Following the committee meeting on May 16, we are closer than ever to ensuring that the State of California will recognize mutual water companies as tax-exempt organizations consistent with our federal IRS 501 (c)(12) designation.

Senate Bill 775, introduced by Senator Susan Rubio, fixes some problems for mutual water companies and others resulting from differences in state and federal tax exemption. For example, when mutual water companies applied for state grants under Propositions 1 and 68, they were notified that California did not recognize their federal tax-exempt status. Accepting such grants would subject mutual water companies to state tax liabilities if mutuals attempted to qualify through homeowners associations or other California-recognized designations. Other unintended consequences extended to tax liabilities for interest earned on reserve accounts that are supposed to help with maintenance and repairs, as well as taxes on metered water sales that are intended to conserve water.

Advancing SB775 wouldn’t have been possible without the 40 mutual water companies that wrote supportive letters to their senators who sit on key committees that had to approve SB775. CalMutuals also received key support from the Northern California Water Association and Eastern Municipal Water District.

But our work isn’t done. Upon passage by two-thirds of the Senate, SB775 will go to the Assembly for consideration in June.

The State Assembly has 80 members, twice the number of Senators, entailing expansion of our efforts. Please contact Gabriel Dima Smith at (714) 449-8403 so we can help you reach your Assemblymember as we ramp-up our efforts heading into the summer.

Getting Answers About PFAS Phase 1 Testing Orders

Update on PFAS Phase 1 Contamination Data Investigation

Have you received an order from the State Water Resources Control Board to test water sources for PFAS as part of their Phase 1 contamination data investigation?

We spoke on May 14 with with Darrin Polhemus, deputy director of the State Water Resources Control Board’s Division of Drinking Water (DDW) and Daniel Newton who heads DDW’s working group about its Phase 1 investigation seeking data about per- and poly-fluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) occurrence in drinking water sources adjacent to facilities such as landfills and airports.

Phase 1 began in March and DDW issued orders to 192 water systems. First quarter test results are due July 1, 2019.

We raised two key issues with DDW officials: the financial hardship posed by testing requirements and an error in instructions for filing waivers.

Modifying Sampling Requirements to Control Cost
With individual source testing costs estimated at $6,600, we argued that the orders received by 41 small systems with less than 1,000 connections pose a financial hardship that is compounded, especially when some small systems may have as many as 17 potential sources or wells to test. While no immediate relief was found, DDW officials indicated that the its branch engineers could exercise some discretion in the number and timing of samples to be taken by water suppliers. This in turn may help control costs. Find your branch office by clicking here.

Filing Waiver Requests
In addition to the cost, CalMutuals is concerned that the instructions for filing waivers distributed by DDW had an error which has yet to be corrected. While DDW officials did not share our concern based on the small number of waiver requests received so far, we made it clear that several systems were waiting for the results of our call with DDW to determine how to correctly file a request. If your system has received an order by DDW for testing of PFAS you may file a waiver request.  Click here to learn more.

Every water supplier should be concerned given that PFAS is a byproduct of many consumer and industrial products and production ingredients. A Phase 2 order will soon be issued for drinking water sources near plating and chroming facilities that we estimate to include hundreds of more water systems in California.

CalMutuals wishes to thank Mr. Owen Sharp of San Andreas Mutual Water Company near Santa Cruz for alerting us of this situation as well as his work in documenting the impacts of the order. CalMutuals President Lisa Yamashita Lopez and Regulatory Affairs Chairman Ken Tcheng have made addressing Per- and Polyfluoroalkyl Substances (PFAS) a priority for CalMutuals.

Free Help Finding Federal and State Grants

Have an infrastructure need but need funding? We met some folks at the recent California Financing Coordinating Committee (CFCC) funding fair in Bakersfield who are anxious to help you get started.

Here’s how it works: water agencies send CFCC a Common Funding Inquiry Form with a project or problem description, estimated schedule, estimated costs and financing needed. CFCC sends the inquiry around to its partner agencies including the U.S. Dept. of Agriculture and California Dept. of Water Resources. You get feedback about available grant resources that might be a match.

The form and information about upcoming CFCC Funding Fair sessions can be found at http://www.cfcc.ca.gov/

CFCC agencies fund infrastructure projects focused on drinking water, waste water, water quality, water conservation, water use efficiency, energy efficiency, flood management, solid waste and compost. 

CFCC partner agencies include the U.S. Department of Agriculture Rural Development, California Infrastructure and Economic Bank, California Department of Housing and Human Development, State Water Resources Control Board, U.S. Bureau of Reclamation (USBR), California Department of Water Resources, California Rural Water Association, and Rural Community Assistance Corporation. 

Grant Funding for Green Infrastructure Projects

The California Natural Resource Agency is accepting grant proposals for green infrastructure projects that benefit disadvantaged communities. Up to $3 million will be available for each project, to a total of about $18.5 million.

Proposal are due on Friday, June 28.

Learn more about eligibility, requirements and workshops by clicking here.

Check out these upcoming workshops and find more at the CalMutuals Calendar at https://calmutuals.org/events/month/

Mapping Small Water Systems With Free Google Earth Pro Desktop

Discover how free software can help you view and use Google Earth’s seamless aerial photography.
Tuesday, June 18
Register for 10 a.m. or 2 p.m. online sessions

CalTAP Fair for Water Systems

Learn about the California Technical Assistance Providers (CalTAP) program, which provides onsite technical assistance, free workshops and more for water professionals throughout California.
Thursday, June 20, 8:30 a.m. to 4 p.m., Claremont, CA
Register Now

Heat Illness Prevention Tips Just in Time for Summer

Summer is coming and bringing with it hotter days.

Now’s a great time to roll out your heat-illness prevention program, and TheZenith is here to help!

JPRIMA Workers’ Comp policyholders can access resources like training materials, posters, paycheck stuffers and videos via the Zenith Solution Center.

Get proactive and start talking to your employees about how to stay safe as temperatures rise. Click here to learn more.

Associate Spotlight: Caselle

CalMutuals appreciates the support we receive from our Associate (vendor) members. This month we give a special shout out to our partner, Caselle.

Offering general accounting and software solutions, Caselle serves the Main Streets of America— the towns and cities, governments and municipalities. Communities just like yours that grown and change.

Caselle provides simple, effective software that keeps utility services up-to-date and customer payments manageable.

Learn more about its powerful programs and customizable forms and notices at https://www.caselle.com/products/utility/