Serving Our Customers

We work hard to provide access to the safe, high-quality water service that is critical to the health and well-being of our customers. In addition to diligently maintaining water quality, we pursue opportunities to promote affordability, strengthen the security of our operations, and improve convenience.

Drinking Water Quality and Customer Safety

Our water quality assurance program and accredited water quality professionals contribute to our ability to treat, test, and deliver high-quality water to the communities we serve.

Treatment and Testing

Our Water Quality Department manages processes to proactively collect water samples, regularly test quality, and effectively treat water in order to meet or surpass requirements. The department leads our efforts to leverage advanced technology and collaborate with federal, state, and regulatory agencies. To help preserve water quality during droughts, wildfires, and other events, we monitor environmental conditions and adjust operations as needed to maintain safety.

We manage extensive monitoring programs and over 800 different treatment processes to meet over 250 water quality standards, including requirements from the federal Safe Drinking Water Act (SDWA) and applicable state regulations. To accomplish this at each entry point to the distribution system, we employ programs that are specifically designed to improve water quality, such as our award-winning groundwater treatment projects.

In California, we collect more than 70,000 water samples from our water systems and conduct more than 400,000 water quality tests every year. We analyze the majority of water samples from our California service areas at our in-house laboratory in San Jose. For the remaining samples, we outsource testing only to state certified contract laboratories that align with our licensing and quality thresholds. Our lab has achieved Environmental Laboratory Accreditation Program (ELAP) certification for 23 years by passing annual site audits performed by the State of California or a third-party assessor. We also adhere to The NELAC Institute (TNI) Laboratory Accreditation Standards, adopted by ELAP, to meet more rigorous laboratory operational requirements.

We use our Laboratory Information Management System (LIMS) to manage data collection, quality control, reporting, and regulatory compliance programs in California and Washington. We update the LIMS regularly to expand functionality, scope of use, and capabilities of the application. We plan to incorporate the LIMS in our remaining states of operation.

In addition to meeting regulations in California related to drinking water, we also maintain safety certifications for any direct additives or products that may come into contact with drinking water. These products or chemicals are certified for meeting the specifications of NSF International/American National Standard Institute (NSF/ANSI). If there are any issues related to water quality and safety, we have systems in place designed to notify customers quickly and proactively.

Emerging Contaminants

In advance of regulations, we proactively conduct additional testing, maintain transparency about our performance, and support research on emerging contaminants. Every five years, we also participate in the Unregulated Contaminant Monitoring Rule (UCMR) program to collect occurrence data on emerging contaminants. We support legislation to prohibit products that may impact water quality, thereby protecting the water supply before contamination can occur.

Our process to evaluate methods to treat emerging contaminants aligns with our standard approach for treatment and testing. We consider best available technologies (BAT), cost-effectiveness, and the existence of any co-contaminants that must also be removed. Other site-specific factors include lot size, operational considerations, and discharge and waste disposal options.

While there are no state or federal Maximum Contaminant Levels (MCLs) yet for per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) compounds, we continue to closely monitor the regulatory process at state and federal levels, follow recommendations from regulators, review existing and new treatment methods, and develop a response strategy to help prepare us to meet anticipated Maximum Contaminant Levels. Where detections of PFAS in our California systems have exceeded the response levels (RLs) advised by experts, we seek to act quickly by either removing the source from service or installing treatment for PFAS. We use granular activated carbon treatment, reverse osmosis, and ion-exchange technologies to remove contaminants where needed.

We also treat affected water supplies for chromium-6, which experts suggest is harmful to human health and for which the California State Water Resources Control Board is developing a new Maximum Contaminant Level. To treat chromium-6, we use strong base anion exchange or reduction, coagulation, oxidation, and filtration treatment methods. We began treating water supplies for chromium-6 shortly after the safe drinking water standard was set in 2014, and we have continued to meet the threshold for affected active water sources as regulations have evolved.

Preventing lead contamination that may result from corrosion of lead-bearing components in distribution infrastructure or household plumbing is another primary focus of our efforts to protect the health and safety of our customers. We monitor water quality and test for lead in drinking water as required by law; maintain and upgrade our systems to support compliance with health and safety codes mandating use of lead-free materials in water system replacements, repairs, and new installations; frequently test for corrosivity of the water and add corrective measures when necessary to prevent lead from home plumbing fixtures from affecting water quality; and carefully plan and conduct water quality testing before using any new source of water. We also provide educational resources for customers to learn about lead contamination and how they can reduce potential exposure to lead in drinking water.

While there are no known lead service lines within Cal Water systems, the updated Lead and Copper Rule from the Environmental Protection Agency includes expanded requirements to complete service line inventories on both the water utility’s and the customer’s side of the water meter to identify lead in drinking water. As part of our compliance strategy for this updated rule, we are currently conducting an inventory to identify potential lead service lines on the customer side of the water meter.

To help address the emerging risks of microplastics, we are identifying future opportunities to monitor microplastics at certain facilities in alignment with guidance from the California State Water Resources Control Board’s Division of Drinking Water.

Cross-Connection Control

Through our cross-connection control program, we manage actual or potential connections between potable water supply and non-potable matter that can contaminate water supplies in the event of backflow, where hydraulic conditions cause the direction of water flow to reverse. Our Water Quality team oversees this program to help protect our distribution system from any activities on customers’ properties. At-risk customers are required to install, test, and maintain proper backflow prevention measures designed to align with regulations and avoid potential liability. Our experts confirm annual testing of backflow prevention assemblies, assess all water connections, and administer new commercial and residential assemblies.


Our Water Quality Department includes experts with a large variety of certifications and qualifications related to cross-connection control, laboratory analysis, and treatment. Because the responsibility for water quality does not lie with the Water Quality Department alone, Operations Department staff receive water quality training on a variety of topics, including SDWA regulations, sample collection, analytics equipment use, field analysis, operation of specific treatment equipment, and additional technical information. Attendees are required to prove comprehension of sample collection by taking a written exam after training. We encourage employees in all roles to learn more about water quality by engaging in relevant training, certification processes, and conferences.


We submit hundreds of monthly performance reports to the California State Water Resources Control Board’s Division of Drinking Water. The Division of Drinking Water also audits existing facilities, including wells, tanks, and pipelines, and provides permits for new operations.

To help residents and businesses across our subsidiaries learn about their local water supply, we prepare annual Consumer Confidence Reports. Available on our subsidiary websites, these water quality reports provide information on the water supply, sustainability, testing, standards, and other topics. Customers may also request a copy by contacting their local Customer Center.



One of our Operations Managers at Washington Water received the Drinking Water Week Commitment to Excellence award from the Washington State Department of Health for contributing to improvements in the water system. He created new monitoring schedules and used methods to evaluate and enhance source water and distribution processes—all with the goal of better serving customers and providing high-quality water. For more information, see our Jensen Receives Commitment to Excellence Award page on our web site.


2022 Highlights

  • As we continue to prepare for water quality regulations for emerging contaminants, we celebrated the opening of a new PFAS treatment facility in Montebello, Calif. The Montebello well site was previously taken offline due to the presence of PFAS in the water supply. The new treatment plant allowed us to return the well to service, helping enhance water supply reliability for our East Los Angeles customers’ everyday and emergency needs while also ensuring they have water that will meet both current and future water quality standards. Learn more on our New PFAS treatment facility in East Los Angeles page on our web site.
  • We completed construction of a treatment plant to remove perfluorooctanesulfonic acid (PFOS) at wells in Oroville and Marysville, Calif. The new treatment facilities are expected to enable us to return the wells—which were previously offline—to service, increasing water supplies and reliability while providing high-quality water to customers for their everyday and emergency needs. We have also begun PFAS sampling in our Washington systems to comply with new State Advisory Levels.
  • We enhanced the accessibility of water quality training by integrating SDWA training into our human capital management platform, which is available for all employees. Our water quality lab staff also successfully completed training to continue to meet TNI Laboratory Accreditation Standards. We also prepared to launch an internal backflow certification training for the Northern California region, which should take place in 2023.
  • Across the Company, our teams achieved 100% compliance with all SDWA and applicable state water quality standards, with zero primary or secondary violations.

Tier 1 (acute health-based) drinking water violations


Tier 2 (non-acute health-based) drinking water violations


procedural Tier 3 (non-health-based) drinking water violations

Water Affordability and Access

Our approach to affordability seeks to prioritize operational efficiency, rate design, conservation activities, and low-income support programs in order to provide affordable drinking water to our customers despite the rising costs associated with providing a safe, reliable supply.

Affordability Considerations in the Rate-Making Process

Affordability factors into decisions throughout the entirety of our business, as changes to infrastructure, water quality standards, and supply costs may impact water rates. Our Rates Department emphasizes affordability when setting customer rates—which is a highly regulated process—with the public utilities commissions in our states. We also maintain open communication with our communities to explain rate changes. Factors that impact and contribute to rate changes include:

  • Additional water quality regulations and standards that require greater investments in contaminant detection and water treatment technologies.
  • Local officials in different cities and counties—who mandate shifts in planning, permitting, and reporting in different cities and counties. We often incur costs related to these additional requirements, such as the relocation of pipelines or repaving of areas during main replacement projects.
  • Customer incomes, housing prices, and local costs of living can directly affect affordability of rates.
  • Climate change increases the intensity and likelihood of wildfires, flooding, and power loss, which can in turn increase costs for infrastructure repair and resilience measures.
  • Supply chain constraints may increase the cost of obtaining equipment and critical products.
  • Long-term supply chain challenges can increase the price of wholesale water when other providers face similar supply conditions.

Based on these impacts, we adjust our strategy as needed to balance it with affordability. Additionally, we incorporate local regulatory requirements and review specific needs within our service areas, including infrastructure investments, budgeting factors, operating costs, and services provided.

During preparation of rate case proceedings, we evaluate multiple rate design scenarios and their effects on average bills, with a focus on costs for residential and low-income customers. To help manage associated financial impacts, we may propose options to phase-in rate increases over time and advocate for the consolidation of smaller water systems with larger water systems to spread costs over a larger customer base.

We foster regular communication with our regulators to demonstrate transparency and align on safety, reliability, affordability, sustainability, and any other overlapping priorities to benefit our customers. For example, we support the Environmental and Social Justice (ESJ) Action Plan of the California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC). This plan targets investments in certain communities intended to enhance local air quality, climate resilience, access to high-quality water, safety, outreach, and economic development. We regularly report to the CPUC about our progress on supporting these goals through our rate cases. We are also active contributors to water policy proceedings at the CPUC, which in 2022 included rulemakings focused specifically on enhancing the affordability of utility services in California and on reducing the water bill debt of low-income customers.

Expense Management

We also contribute to savings for our customers by seeking to control internal expenses. When diversifying water supplies, we pursue lower-cost sources when possible that don’t compromise quality. To help meet evolving regulations, we consider the costs of treatment technologies when piloting potential options, and we advise public health experts on reasonable implementation timelines. Additionally, we work to negotiate with our suppliers to achieve lower costs through long-term contracts, build up our safety stock to avoid expensive delays, balance our supply mix to minimize the costs of goods, and evaluate alternative, affordable materials. For more information about our supply chain reliability, see the Responsible Sourcing section.

Alternate Funding Mechanisms

When available, we pursue funding such as grants and no-interest loans from external sources. These funding sources are intended to enable us to make additional investments in critical projects while limiting impacts on our customers. To date, we have requested more than $27 million in grant funding from state and federal entities to pursue a variety of projects focused on water supply, operational reliability, drought resiliency, water quality, and conservation programs, particularly in low-income communities. In some cases of water contamination, we have pursued civil litigation to hold parties responsible for applicable remediation. These actions prevent our customers from bearing the costs of contaminated water treatment.


Our conservation programs directly impact affordability by lowering customer consumption and associated water bills. Greater water savings also reduce demand on our water sources, which helps to minimize the costs of investment in additional infrastructure to secure more water supply. For more information about customer engagement on conservation, see the End-Use Conservation section.

Financial Assistance for Customers

We provide multiple programs to help our customers pay their bills during challenging financial times. Our efforts support greater access and convenience for our customers and include:

  • Flexible billing: Customers have access to penalty-free, interest-free payment arrangements and extensions. We also do not charge late fees for payments in California, New Mexico, and Washington.
  • Customer Assistance Program (CAP): Formerly known as the Low-Income Ratepayer Assistance program, CAP provides a credit equal to 50% of the 5/8” x ¾” monthly service charge for residential customers in California who meet maximum income guidelines. We also have a stockholder-funded hardship grant program that protects access to water.
  • Low Income Household Water Assistance Program (LIHWAP): This federal program provides funding to pay bills on behalf of low-income customers. We help our customers access funding by increasing awareness of the program and connecting them to third-party administrators through engagement with community organizations.
  • Rate Support Fund: In California, this program subsidizes monthly bills for customers in our highest-cost districts, including Dixon, Kern River Valley, and Willows districts. These districts have fewer customers available to share costs related to operation, maintenance, and infrastructure upgrades.
  • Customer service support: To give customers more flexibility, we offer extended customer service hours. We strive to inform customers of opportunities for bill payment arrangements, late payment structures, our financial assistance programs, and local low-income assistance programs. If customers have special medical needs, our policy is to reach out to offer additional assistance.

Implemented in 2020, California Senate Bill 998 (SB998) is designed to prevent disconnections by requiring sufficient notifications and opportunities for exercising payment options before shutoff occurs. To support our alignment with this legislative mandate, we allow non-payment for a total of 79 days prior to disconnection, send payment reminders through multiple communications, and maintain residential health and safety exemptions. We strive to avoid disconnections as much as possible by promptly notifying customers of past-due billing and offering information about the variety of financial assistance programs and payment arrangements available.

We also continue to support various legislation that aims to enhance affordability for customers. See the Public Policy and Political Involvement section for recent efforts.

Expanding Access

To help increase access to high-quality, reliable water service in communities near our service areas, we often collaborate with neighboring low-income, underserved communities—or those struggling to maintain their water systems—on projects such as acquiring those systems or installing connections to our existing distribution system to extend our service, in some cases using grant funding. For example, when the De-Rancho-Y Mobile Villa in Bakersfield faced a well failure, we installed a service line with temporary piping to connect the residents to our system and provide them with a new water supply. The community is now working to obtain grant funds to install permanent piping for continued service.



We continue to expand flexible bill payment options for customers to increase convenience and affordability. Recently, we engaged in a partnership with Promise to provide an online portal, PromisePay, where residential customers can select from various payment plan options, set up automatic payments, and provide contact information for payment reminders and other notifications through text messaging. PromisePay allows customers to manage their water bills and change payment plans more easily. For further information about the program, visit our February 6, 2023 press release on our web site.


2022 Highlights

  • We secured more than $10 million in grants to minimize rate impacts of critical infrastructure, water supply, and water quality projects in smaller, water-stressed, and disadvantaged or higher-cost service areas. Among these, we secured nearly $2.4 million in drought relief grants from the California State Department of Water Resources for three water supply reliability projects targeted for completion in 2023 through 2025:
    • Leveraging $1.45 million in grant funding, we intend to build a new raw water intake facility to enhance the reliable supply of surface water to the Kern River Valley District.
    • Using $894,000 in funding, we plan to construct and install a new storage tank and two booster pumps to provide an above-ground water reservoir and additional pumping capacity in our Visalia District.
    • In our Redwood Valley District, we intend to use $19,500 in grant assistance to install two additional membrane filters to the existing treatment plant, increasing reliability and reducing the dependency on hauled water supplies.
  • We held seven CAP events to engage service areas with higher percentages of low-income customers that also had lower levels of CAP participation. CAP events were designed to foster CAP enrollment, increase awareness of customer assistance and conservation programs, and build relationships with local community organizations. Through these initiatives, we strengthened our community partnerships and introduced customers to CAP. We expect to continue to conduct CAP events in other communities moving forward to cover all of our service areas at least once every three years.

More than


customers enrolled in our CAP as of the end of 2022

$14 million

provided in discounts through our CAP in 2022



customers used the LIHWAP program to pay more than $460,000 toward their water bills.

Cybersecurity and Data Privacy

Cybersecurity is a vital component of both operational and water safety. To help prepare for and address evolving cyber threats, we regularly evaluate our cybersecurity processes, invest in advanced technology, and promote employee education to strengthen system and data security.

Compliance Matters

Our management approach is intended to align with the following standards and regulations for cybersecurity and data privacy:

  • National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) Cybersecurity Framework
  • The Sarbanes-Oxley Act (SOX)
  • NIST 800-171 and Cybersecurity Maturity Model Certification
  • Payment Card Industry Data Security Standard (PCI-DSS)
  • California Consumer Privacy Act (CCPA)
  • Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPPA)
  • Defense Federal Acquisition Regulations Supplement (DFARS)

The Information Technology (IT) team regularly updates and maintains programs that are designed to support compliance with these requirements. For example, we implement processes to protect data privacy, enable customers to make CCPA inquiries, and promptly respond to these requests in alignment with CCPA. We also have multiple internal policies and procedures related to IT security, incident response, data privacy, information classification, encryption, vulnerability management, and other key cybersecurity topics.

Other key efforts that form the foundation of our cybersecurity and data privacy management include:

  • Regular testing: Through external audits and annual, third-party penetration tests on our corporate and supervisory control and data acquisition (SCADA) networks, we test our controls and seek to identify potential weaknesses in our technology infrastructure. Assessments also help to analyze possible network breaches through various pathways, evaluate security levels, and review our Incident Response Plan. Our IT team conducts drills for our Incident Response Plan multiple times per year and coordinates support from the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), California Cyber Security Integration Center (Cal CSIC), and our cybersecurity vendors.
  • Monitoring for risks: A third party manages our Security Operations Center (SOC) and is responsible for monitoring network traffic 24/7. Our SOC helps identify and address cybersecurity threats by assessing threat level and appropriate response in real time. To help manage cyber risks within our supply chain, we use tools to screen and review supplier IT and cybersecurity scores. We work with our suppliers to collaborate on opportunities for improvement.
  • Security controls: Our controls to prevent, detect, and correct potential breaches leverage both physical-and software-based methods. The Company’s Security Incident Event Management tool evaluates security logs to help identify irregular activity, includes detective controls, and tracks how often vulnerabilities are scanned and patched.
  • Defensive technology: We incorporate an intrusion prevention system, antivirus program, and endpoint protection system designed to block unwanted traffic and flag suspicious activity on endpoint devices. Our data loss prevention security tool inspects outgoing traffic and helps blocks sensitive data from being exposed. Additionally, we maintain an Identity Access Management tool to manage security access to resources needed for job responsibilities.
  • Regular improvements: Group continues to work to enhance technology security systems based on new information, incorporate advanced controllers in our SCADA system, and evaluate software and hardware acquisitions. We also engage the FBI, DHS, Cal CSIC, and a Fusion Center, which gathers threat-related intelligence, to support incident response and share critical information that informs improvements in security.

Workforce Training and Engagement

Our employees are our most important line of defense in cybersecurity protection. To help strengthen their ability to mitigate risks and review critical policies and security practices, we annually update and provide security awareness training for active employees and contractors. We also publish an internal monthly cybersecurity newsletter that informs our workforce of cybersecurity best practices.

On a monthly basis, we run mock phishing email campaigns to test employee security awareness and caution them from clicking on fraudulent emails that may appear safe. First-time offenders receive additional training, repeat offenders must meet with supervisors and the IT Security team, and further offenses result in negative performance logs. With the support of repeated employee engagements and training, we have continued to reduce the number of employees clicking on test phishing emails.



2022 Highlights

  • As additional federal mandates and CCPA compliance standards evolve, our IT department continues to work to update security measures, identify high-priority data, review opportunities for data encryption, determine appropriate access levels, and develop a record of access.
  • We have leveraged multiple tools designed to minimize cyber vulnerabilities and support our monitoring efforts. For example, we added multi-factor authentication to enable more robust security controls and verify users before allowing access to certain sensitive data. We also replaced our previous Firewall with a Next Generation Firewall, to help mitigate an aging infrastructure risk. For supplier screening, we implemented Avetta, a software tool to review a new vendor’s financial stability and security posture.
  • We added the following new state-level partners to strategically improve incident response support and to promote collaboration to share critical information:
    • California Cybersecurity Integration Center (Cal-CSIC)
    • New Mexico All Source Intelligence Center (NMASIC)
    • Washington State Cybersecurity & Critical Infrastructure Protection (WA-CCIP)
  • Our team regularly engaged our security and government partners to remain updated on potential threats and support efficient responses, especially to address concerns related to the conflict in Ukraine.

We added multi-factor authentication to enable more robust security controls and verify users before allowing access to certain sensitive data.

Customer Service

Our customers are at the heart of everything we do. We are committed to increasing convenience, providing excellent service, and leveraging continuous feedback from our customers to better serve our communities and enhance the quality of life of those we serve.

Commitment to Excellence

Our Customer Service Representatives (CSRs) are dedicated to meeting the needs of our customers and contributing to high-quality customer experiences. These professionals receive a range of training to cultivate their knowledge and improve their ability to serve our customers.

Across our subsidiaries, our Customer Service Department collaborates with regional and local customer service teams to help manage controls and metrics, organize audits, and address urgent needs and special projects. Our Regional Customer Centers (RCCs) strive to offer consistent, elevated customer service in our California districts.

A commitment to excellence also means a commitment to evolution. The needs and preferences of our customers change over time. We seek to track these changes closely and evolve our service to address them. For example, to support accessibility as customers continue to shift from in-person to more online engagement, we offer multiple web-based service solutions:

  • Our online, customer-facing portal is designed to enable customers to securely access account information on the web and connect to the Customer Care and Billing (CC&B) platform. The platform offers improvements in payment options, account recovery, notification management, leak detection, and conservation and meter analytics.
  • Our Customer Outreach Portal, which syncs CC&B and geographic information system (GIS) data, is another online solution that helps us quickly identify customers affected by emergencies across our geographic locations and communicate important information through call, text, or email.
  • We provide a Connected Customer notification system that can update customers with real-time alerts and expected arrival times of field technicians.
  • Customers can report water waste concerns and water main or service leaks through our mobile application or web site.
  • To increase accessibility, we have live customer chat features to address questions directly on our web site.
  • Acting on customer feedback, we offer increased clarity in our email communications and payment failure messages, as well as additional mechanisms for customers to submit after-hours service requests through our web site.
A Cal Water team member meets with a customer about a service request.

Knowing our customers receive information through a variety of channels, we want to reach them where they are. We utilize a multi-channel approach to engage them, whether through traditional bills and direct mail, email or social and digital channels, or the media. When we acquire new water systems, we utilize multiple modes of engagement intended to provide customers with important information about our operations, and we host events so they can connect with us in person. We continue to work to align our approach across the Company to promote consistency in our outreach process.

Customer Feedback

We are committed to basing customer service decisions on customer preferences and using customer feedback to help us identify opportunities to improve our service. At Group, we actively engage customers in surveys to measure satisfaction levels and better understand their perceptions and preferences on a variety of topics, such as service priorities and expectations, communication needs, water quality, rates, water usage, and more.

Additionally, our Medallia survey platform requests customer feedback after customer service calls and distributes email surveys on a regular basis. The platform reports on CSR performance and collects data on customer perspectives and experiences. We review the insights to better inform our processes, update training for CSRs, and celebrate accomplishments.



2022 Highlights

  • Leveraging phone system features: We tested and refined our new phone system features to record and monitor customer calls. Customer service leaders use the data to draw insights and support our efforts to provide consistent, high-quality service. We plan to launch the system formally in 2023.
  • Certification training program: We expanded our customer service certification training throughout California in 2022, and rolled it out in Hawaii, New Mexico, and Washington in Q1 of 2023. Training includes baseline and higher-level courses on customer service, internal policies, and water system operations. The program upskills our customer service professionals and outlines pathways to promotion.
  • Leading Customer Loyalty program: We relaunched our Leading Customer Loyalty program, which contributes to the ability of our CSRs to develop meaningful connections with our customers. Participants receive training on how to model, teach, and reinforce empathy, responsibility, and generosity.

customer complaints to the CPUC's Consumer Affairs Branch were received for our California customer connections in 2022, meeting our goal of less than 0.1%

Bar chart depicting California Customer Service Performance in 2022. 90% of calls were answered in 30 seconds or less, 10% ahead of the performance goal of 80%. 99.8% of customer bills were delivered accurately, 2.8% ahead of the performance goal of 97%. 99.8% of scheduled service appointments were made on time within a 2-hour window, which is more stringent than the CPUC-established 4-hour window, 4.8% ahead of the performance goal of 95%. 99.9% of customer-requested work orders were completed by the scheduled date, 4.9% ahead of the performance goal of 95%.