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Safe Drinking Water Fund Passes California Legislature

California Legislature Passes Safe Drinking Water Fund

The state Assembly and Senate passed legislation to provide $130 million to provide safe drinking water for Californians lacking access to healthy water.

The state Senate approved the bill 38-1 Monday. The Assembly passed the bill 68-0 on July 5.

The legislation now heads to Gov. Gavin Newsom for his signature.

No water tax

Newsom and others in the Legislature had proposed a tax on residential water bills to pay for projects to provide safe drinking water for residents that don’t have access to it. Water industry groups, including the San Diego County Water Authority, were among the broad coalition of water, business and civic interests that opposed the tax.

“Thanks to the efforts of Senate President Pro Tem Toni Atkins and her staff, Californians will not face a drinking water tax,” said Glenn Farrel, government relations manager for the Water Authority. “Her leadership was vital to securing the funding needed to provide safe drinking water for the communities in California where unhealthy water is a problem.”

Historic funding solution

Funding to clean up contaminated water will instead come from California’s cap-and-trade program.

SB 200, which creates the Safe and Affordable Drinking Water Fund, is the second part of an historic funding solution for disadvantaged communities in the state that do not have access to safe drinking water.

The first part is in the state’s 2019-’20 budget, which Governor Newsom signed on June 27. The budget allocates $100 million from the Greenhouse Gas Reduction Fund (GGRF) and $30 million from the General Fund for the current fiscal year. SB 200 provides $130 million per year from the GGRF for safe drinking water for future years until 2030.

Safe drinking water

The funding is intended to assist communities in paying for the costs of obtaining access to safe and affordable drinking water, including treated contaminated water.  Many of those residents live in the San Joaquin Valley and rural areas of the state.

Smaller water districts will also be able to tap the funds to help with their operating costs, and possibly merge with other small districts.

The California State Water Resources Control Board has identified 329 water systems statewide that serve contaminated drinking water or cannot provide reliable water service due to unsound infrastructure or lack of resources. Most of the systems are in rural areas and serve fewer than 10,000 people.

A proposed tax on California’s drinking water in 2018 was also scraped by then Gov. Jerry Brown and legislative leaders.

The San Diego County Water Authority Board of Directors supports a statewide solution to provide safe, reliable drinking water to all residents. Photo: Traphitho-Cesar-Augusto-Ramirez-VallejoPixabayCC

Water Authority Seeks Statewide Solution to Drinking Water Woes

The San Diego County Water Authority’s Board of Directors on March 28 threw its support behind a coordinated statewide approach to ensure that all communities in California have daily access to safe, reliable drinking water.

The California State Water Resources Control Board has identified 329 water systems statewide that serve contaminated drinking water or cannot provide reliable water service due to unsound infrastructure or lack of resources. Most of the systems are in rural areas and serve fewer than 10,000 people.

More than a half-dozen bills have been introduced in Sacramento this legislative session to provide safe and reliable water supplies for disadvantaged communities in the Central and Salinas Valleys.

The Water Authority Board supports a plan to combine several measures into a unified legislative package.

“By amending several components of the relevant bills and linking them in a modified single reform package, we would advance a more comprehensive fix to drinking water quality issues throughout the state,” said Glenn Farrel, government relations manager for the Water Authority.

Safe Drinking Water Trust Fund

In addition, the Water Authority Board voted to support Senate Bills 414 and 669, both of which provide alternatives to water tax proposals in the Legislature that the agency helped defeat last year.

  • SB 414 would establish the Small System Water Authority Act of 2019 and authorize the creation of small system water authorities that could absorb, improve and competently operate public water systems that are chronically out of compliance with drinking water standards.
  • SB 669 would create the Safe Drinking Water Trust Fund to collect federal contributions, voluntary contributions, gifts, grants, bequests, transfers by the Legislature from the General Fund and the Greenhouse Gas Reduction Fund, funding from authorized general obligation bond acts, and other sources. Revenues would help community water systems in disadvantaged communities that chronically fail to meet federal and state drinking water standards and do not have the money to pay for operation and maintenance costs to comply with those standards.

The Water Authority Board voted to oppose SB 200, unless it is amended to address numerous concerns that are outlined in the staff report to the Water Authority’s Board.

A fourth legislative measure, an Administration Budget Trailer Bill: Environmental Justice – Safe and Affordable Drinking Water and Exide Cleanup, would impose a tax on water and agricultural activities to finance safe drinking water efforts. The Board voted to oppose the budget trailer bill unless it is amended, among other things, to remove water tax provisions and instead appropriate $1 billion in budget surplus funds to the Safe Drinking Water Trust Fund.

Details Of Newsom’s Drinking Water Tax Plan Revealed

California Gov. Gavin Newsom revealed new details of his plans to charge water customers in the state a new tax to fund safe drinking water for disadvantaged communities. He announced Wednesday his plans to charge water customers an extra amount ranging from 95 cents to $10 a month — money that, combined with fees on animal farmers, dairies and fertilizer sellers, he projects would raise $140 million a year that could be put toward testing wells, aiding public water systems and treating contaminated water. The amount paid would depend on the size of one’s water meter.