Water Quality and Homelessness

The Central Coast Water Board strives to collaborate with local and state agencies and non-profit entities to identify and promote solutions that reduce water quality impacts associated with people experiencing homelessness. Actions such as improving access to emergency shelters, social services, clean drinking water, sanitation services, and affordable housing can help reduce impacts to central coast streams by providing interim and long-term solutions, thereby reducing the occurrence of streamside homeless encampments.

October 3, 2019 Workshop Quick Links

Key Findings for California reported in the 2020 National Point-in-Time Count:

  • California has more than half of all unsheltered homeless people in the country (53% or 108,432) and the highest percentage of all people experiencing homelessness staying in unsheltered locations (72%).
  • While homelessness in most states declined between 2018 and 2019, in California homelessness increased by 16 percent, or 21,306 people and the number of unsheltered individuals in California rose 21%, or by 18,000 people.


Governor Newsom’s Recent Actions

  • In a March 18th Executive Order, the Governor directed $150 million to localities for shelters, hotel and motel rooms, and camper trailers for extremely vulnerable individuals experiencing homelessness. As of April 18th, the State effort has secured 10,974 hotel and motel rooms and 1,133 trailers.


Potential Funding Opportunities
Please see our Financial Assistance web page for more information: https://www.waterboards.ca.gov/centralcoast/water_issues/programs/grants/

Examples of funding that may be used for projects that will reduce water quality impacts related to homelessness are listed below. This list will be updated as additional opportunities arise.

Prop 1 Stormwater Grant Program (SWGP): Funding available for projects that capture, divert, and/or treat storm water runoff from the municipal stormwater systems, and for education and outreach projects (i.e. community meetings, flyers, signage, etc.). Please see the financial assistance web page (link above) for application information. The next project solicitation period will be in March 2020.

319(h) Nonpoint Source (NPS) Program: Funding available for NPS projects that will restore water quality in watersheds with an adopted TMDL (total maximum daily load), and if the watershed is identified as a “high priority” in the NPS Program Plan. The Central Coast Water Board identified impacts associated with homelessness as a priority in our Nonpoint Source Program five-year Plan and therefore, this funding may be used for pollution control measures associated with homelessness in high priority watersheds. This funding is not available for projects within a municipal stormwater (MS4) permit boundary. Please see the financial assistance web page (link above) for application information. The next project solicitation period will be in Fall 2020.


Water Quality Impacts
The occurrence of streamside homeless encampments is on the rise in the central coast, resulting in increased impacts associated with excessive trash, human waste, drug paraphernalia (e.g., discarded needles), and erosion that pose risks to public health and safety, and to water quality. Studies using DNA have confirmed human sources of fecal bacteria in central coast streams. Local agencies are also spending tens of thousands of dollars every year to cleanup homeless encampment related trash.


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Environmental Justice and California’s Human Right to Water Law
The Central Coast Water Board recognizes homelessness as one of the most challenging environmental justice issues we face and that it has a nexus to the human right to water. People experiencing homelessness often do not have access to shelter, safe drinking water, or sanitation services and this can result in public health and water quality problems.
For more information regarding the Water Board’s environmental justice goals and commitment to implement California’s Human Right to Water Law, go to the web page:


Should you have additional questions or would like additional information, please contact: RB3-Homelessness@Waterboards.ca.gov


Resources and Collaborators
United States Interagency Council on Homelessness   https://www.usich.gov/
California Homeless Coordinating and Financing Council   https://www.bcsh.ca.gov/hcfc/

Pacific Institute   https://pacinst.org/
New Way Homes   https://www.newwayhomes.org/
Coastal Watershed Council   https://coastal-watershed.org/
Downtown Streets Team   https://www.streetsteam.org/index
Northern Santa Barbara County United Way   https://www.liveunitedsbc.org/

If you would like to collaborate please contact us at