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If you've lived in California for more than a few minutes, you’ve surely seen evidence of the multi-year drought, including the seemingly ubiquitous "Extreme Drought—Save Water!" or "Every Drop Counts" signs. But reducing your water usage doesn’t just safeguard this precious resource—it's also one of the best ways to reduce your water bill.

As the drought drags on and inflation continues to rise, public policy experts warn that many California residents are likely to see increases in their water bills as well. To help you offset the added financial burden, we've compiled a handy list of tips and strategies for how to save on your water bill.

  • Keep an Eye on Your Meter
    According to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), the average American uses around 82 gallons of water each day. However, if you were asked to estimate your water usage without knowing that fact, it's likely that you'd guess something much lower. Having an idea of how much water you use is the first step to cutting back. Consider making your water meter more visible, or getting into the habit of checking it once a day.
  • Fix Leaks
    The EPA has also estimated that the average household loses almost 10,000 gallons of water each year through leaks. That's 10,000 gallons of water that you may be paying for without even using. Spending a few minutes and a little bit of money to repair that faucet/showerhead/toilet you've been meaning to work on may have a much bigger effect than you realize when it comes to saving water.
  • Only Run Appliances When Full
    Try to avoid running your dishwasher or washing machine unless you're doing a full load of dishes or laundry. You'll ultimately cut back on the number of loads you do, which will reduce water usage.
  • Turn Off the Sink When You Brush Your Teeth
    Enough said! It can be easy to lose track of the small moments where we waste water, but eventually, they add up. Look for other moments where you can save water by turning off the tap when you're not using it.
  • Invest in Water-Efficient Gadgets
    You may think that you're being thrifty by hanging on to your old washer or dishwasher, but that's not always the case. Older appliances are much less water- and electricity-efficient than newer ones. Look for Energy Star-rated models, which are sometimes eligible for rebates or tax credits to help offset the cost. If larger appliances are still too expensive, focus on the small ones instead. New showerheads, toilets, and faucets are also more water-efficient.

If you're unable to pay your overdue water bill, look for assistance from your local Low Income Household Water Assistance Program (LIHWAP) provider. Launched by Congress during the height of the COVID pandemic as part of economic relief efforts and continued by the State of California, LIHWAP helps low-income households with a one-time payment per program year on their water and/or sewage bills. Contact your LIHWAP local service provider for details on eligibility and how to apply. In Alamedia county, contact Spectrum Community Service for an application packet. Spectrum's weatherization assistance program can also help with ways to conserve water.

Spectrum Community Services is committed to improving the quality of life for low-income families, seniors, and individuals in Alameda County. Through financial assistance and other services, our goal is to support community members in building healthy, safe, and independent lives. Visit our website for more information, or contact us to learn about current volunteer opportunities. We can't wait to work with you!

Even in spite of heavy rainfall and flooding in January of 2022, weather experts have been quick to point out that the drought in California will continue to persist for the foreseeable future.

That doesn't just spell trouble for the environment. Recent years have seen increasing hardship for California residents, too, even as many people have made efforts to reduce their water usage. Here, we'll dive into some of the factors affecting the California water crisis.

The Cost of Water in California Is Rising

By now, most Californians are familiar with the signs and public information campaigns urging people to conserve water by reducing their consumption.

In spite of that, however, some areas have still witnessed the average water bill in California continue to climb.

Industry experts explain that this is essentially due to companies passing their own costs on to customers. Although demand for water may be decreasing, many of the costs that water suppliers incur remain the same. To break even, they must then increase their revenue somehow.

Californians Are Being Disproportionately Affected

The rising cost of water is problematic for a couple of reasons. First, hotter temperatures caused by the same drought often result in a concomitant rise in other utility bills (like electricity) as people struggle to stay cool.

In addition to that, the people who are most affected by rising water bills are people who are already at a financial disadvantage. Namely, that includes low-income families and people of color. One article by the LA Times noted that it is the "13 million Californians living in low-income households who bear the brunt of soaring water costs."

Help Is Available

For those who qualify, there is some relief in sight. The Low Income Household Water Assistance Program(LIHWAP) offers qualifying households help in the form of a one-time payment on overdue water or sewage bills. For more information on LIHWAP or to determine your eligibility, contact Spectrum today.

Spectrum Community Services is committed to improving the quality of life for low-income families, seniors, and individuals in Alameda County. Through financial assistance and other services, our goal is to support community members in building healthy, safe, and independent lives. Contact us to learn more about our services, including Connect, or consider making a donation to support our work. We can't wait to work with you!

Charitable contributions are a great way to make a positive impact on the world around you, support a cause that matters to you, and also potentially earn tax deductions for yourself. What many people don't realize, however, is that there's more than one way to give. Non-cash donations can often be just as valuable to recipient organizations as cash, and may even come with additional benefits for donors.

What Are Non-Cash Donations?

There are a variety of different types of charitable contributions. These include:

  • Depending on the organization, anything from household goods to clothing to cars may be useful and appreciated. Be sure to check with the organization you have in mind to see what types of goods they prefer to receive.
  • Real Estate.
  • Donor-Advised Funds.
  • Financial Securities (such as stocks, bonds, or options).
  • Planned Giving Options (such as charitable life insurance).
  • Volunteering (specifically, expenses incurred while volunteering are tax-deductible).

The Benefits of Charitable Contributions

Keep in mind that in order for a donation to be tax-deductible, it must be made to a qualifying tax-exempt organization (such as a 501(c)(3)). Depending on the type and amount of the donation, you might also need to submit additional tax forms.

With some types of donations, making a non-cash donation might actually end up maximizing your deduction. Donating appreciated non-cash assets that have been held for more than a year, for example, allow you to avoid the capital gains tax that you would normally pay on those assets. This both maximizes your charitable contribution while also reducing your tax burden.

Particularly for large or non-cash donations, be sure to talk with a financial advisor and the intended recipient organization ahead of time.

Spectrum Community Services is committed to improving the quality of life for low-income families, seniors, and individuals in Alameda County. Through financial assistance and other services, our goal is to support community members in building healthy, safe, and independent lives. Contact us to learn more about our services, or consider making a donation to support our work. We can't wait to work with you!

Income inequality in the United States has become a hot-button topic in recent years. When considered together with the high cost of living in California, which ranks among the most expensive states in the nation, income inequality can have a huge impact on peoples' lives and well-being.

What Is Income Inequality?

Income inequality is defined as the unequal distribution of wealth across different groups of people. In recent history, income inequality in the United States has been largely characterized by differential increases in income. The nation's wealthiest individuals have seen a marked jump in income, whereas those earning the least have seen much smaller (if any) growth in wages.

Who Suffers From Income Inequality?

Income disparities tend to affect those who earn the least. Often (though not always) that includes groups that are more likely to experience poverty, such as Black and Hispanic/Latino individuals and those who suffer from intergenerational poverty. Older adults are also among those who have seen a growth in income inequality of late. This is particularly the case for seniors who live on fixed income, which is notoriously slow to keep up with inflation and rising costs of living.

What Are the Consequences of Income Inequality?

Income inequality often has major consequences on the lives of those at the lower end of the wealth gap. According to the Public Policy Institute of California, "California's income distribution reflects high rates of poverty. Income is frequently not enough to meet basic needs." People in this position are at greater risk of housing instability and chronic health problems.

And it's not just the people who make less money that suffer. Income inequality and unemployment have also been linked to higher crime rates. Further, homelessness creates a drain on public health and support systems, a burden which other taxpayers are usually forced to shoulder.

Spectrum Community Services is committed to improving the quality of life for low-income families, seniors, and individuals in Alameda County. Through financial assistance and other services, our goal is to support community members in building healthy, safe, and independent lives. Contact us to learn more about our services, or consider making a donation to support our work. We can't wait to work with you!

Since 2008, Subaru of America and its retailers have helped enable the delivery of nearly 4 million meals and friendly visits to seniors in need. The #ShareTheLove Event is back to help deliver meals and support to America’s seniors! For every new vehicle bought or leased between November 17 and January 3, Subaru of America and Subaru retailers will donate $250 to #MealsOnWheels America.

“Causes like Meals on Wheels rely on corporate partners to keep our wheels turning,” said Ellie Hollander, President and CEO, Meals on Wheels America. “That’s why we are beyond grateful to Subaru of America and their retailers for their astonishing 15 years of partnership and nearly 4 million meals and friendly visits delivered to our aging neighbors.”