San Bernardino, CA
Last week, California’s State Water Resources Control Board announced a $2.3 million, three-year grant award to California State University in support of its effort to help the state’s underserved and disadvantaged communities manage their water more effectively.
The money will be used to establish a statewide, Disadvantaged Communities Center which will bring students and faculty experts together to provide water management assistance to communities identified as the state’s most vulnerable. The effort is designed to assist the communities’ quest to become sustainable in ongoing drought conditions while also offering experiential learning opportunities for students.
The center will operate under the stewardship of the California State University (CSU) Chancellor's Office charter for the Water Resources and Policy Initiatives (WRPI). This approach leverages the expertise of about 250 researchers from throughout the CSU to help solve the state's complex water issues.
The disadvantaged communities will be identified by the State Water Board who will assign them to the Center for assistance. The Center will then 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," WRPI Director Boykin Witherspoon said in a recent press release. "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 lend their expertise to the effort. This multi-disciplinary approach is designed to allow 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, (a part of California's Proposition 1 State Water Resources Control Board's Water Bond Technical Assistance Funding Program), will fund ‘paid’ internships for students.
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 several grants and initiatives aimed at educating California's future water professionals, expanding industry/ university partnerships, and advancing water technology.