Where: Valley Center, California

Problem: Water systems on tribal lands must pass U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Region 9 surveys.

Solution: Rural Community Assistance Corporation’s (RCAC) pre-sanitary survey walk-through enabled the reservation’s water systems to pass EPA’s survey with the highest possible rating.

The San Pasqual Reservation of the San Pasqual Band of Diegueño Mission Indians is located in northeastern unincorporated San Diego County, California, near Valley Center. The reservation is home to between 1,200 and 1,300 people, mainly members and lineal descendants of the federally recognized Kumeyaay (also known as Diegueño) Tribe. The reservation is divided between the San Luis Rey and Carlsbad watersheds. It comprises five separate, noncontiguous tracts of dry, rocky, scrub-oak hill country encompassing roughly 2,656 acres, including 1,500 acres of trust land and 1,156 of fee lands. The San Pasqual Domestic Water Authority (SPDWA) operates three water systems.

Although the San Pasqual Band of Diegueño Mission Indians holds sovereign authority over their lands, their water use is subject to federal environmental laws and regulations under the Safe Drinking Water Act (SDWA). EPA’s Pacific Southwest Region (Region 9) is the principal federal agency for SDWA regulation enforcement. The agency conducts regular water system surveys to identify any existing or potential sanitary deficiencies that may allow contaminants to enter drinking water systems.

For several years, RCAC has assisted San Pasqual with water conservation and setting rates based on use, drought planning, infrastructure improvements and water use tracking. RCAC has also helped reduce the Tribe’s dependence on external water sources, water recycling and reuse, and construction and rehabilitation of aging water system infrastructure.

In Feb. 2022, RCAC Rural Development Specialists David Hossli and John Parada conducted a pre-sanitary survey walk-through of the Band’s water systems. This detailed walk-through is performed by RCAC staff to help Tribes identify potential deficiencies before EPA inspectors arrive. RCAC’s assistance enabled the Tribe to correct all deficiencies before the official water system survey. Region 9 ultimately reported that the systems had “no significant deficiencies,” which is its highest possible rating.