A bill that would use $15 million to help drought-stricken communities like Cantua Creek is being proposed by Assembly Member Henry T. Perea, even as Fresno County officials try to get Cantua Creek residents to consider a new vote on water rate increases.
County officials will hold a meeting for Cantua Creek residents tonight and will show water customers that if they can conserve water, the average rate increase would be less than $6 per month per household instead of $30, said John Thompson, deputy director of resources and administration for Fresno County’s public works and planning department. Residents rejected the rate increase last month over fears that their monthly water bills would climb above $100.
Thompson said county officials will suggest to residents that they use 50 gallons of water per person. For a two-person household, base rates would rise from $72.13 to $77.84.
He said the water usage in Cantua Creek is generally lower than the assumed 13,000 gallons per month per household, which means bills are trending lower. But because the rate increase was rejected, Cantua Creek’s 77 customers may lose their water service in two months.
“They are conserving somewhat, but it’s hit and miss,” Thompson said. “The rates we came up with really puts the customer in control … we need to educate people better.”
Meanwhile, Perea, D-Fresno, said he hopes the state Water Resources Board can assist residents statewide, including those in Cantua Creek. He said the plan for Cantua Creek is to use money for water filling stations, community showers and bottled water.
The state has an emergency drinking water fund that started with $15 million. Under state rules, a community can seek up to $500,000. Perea’s bill would bolster the fund with an additional $15 million, he said.
“It’s very much an interim measure to get people access to clean water as we deal with the long-term solution,” Perea said.
That long-term solution is a water treatment plant and piping proposed to combine the Cantua Creek and El Porvenir water systems. The county’s engineers are in the process of designing the plan. Once the design is approved, each community can apply for $3 million in grant funding to build the new system.
For now, residents of Cantua Creek and El Porvenir are unable to drink their water because of high levels of disinfectant used to cleanse raw water that comes from Westlands Water District. El Porvenir residents pay an average of $110 per month.
Ultimately, the new system will bring clean drinking water to the two communities.
“The planning process will determine what type of system we need,” Perea said. “But the only way we move forward on a project like this is if the community has clean drinking water.”