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Sen. Atkins to Share Legislative Vision with Water Authority Board

Editors Note: Due to the volume of activity associated with this week’s organizational activities related to the beginning of the 2021-2022 state legislative session, Senator Atkins regretfully had to cancel her appearance during this Thursday’s special Board of Directors meeting, and she expressed her apologies for the unavoidable circumstances and workload that resulted in the cancellation. Fortunately, the Water Authority is honored that state Senator Brian Jones will join the special Board meeting at 2 p.m. Thursday and offer his perspectives on 2020 and his insights on policy and fiscal issues facing California and San Diego County as we advance toward 2021.

California Senate President pro Tem Toni Atkins will share her legislative vision and 2021 policy outlook at a special San Diego County Water Authority Board of Directors meeting on Thursday, December 10. The webcast of the meeting can be viewed at 2 p.m. here.

“I’m hopeful that we’ll hear from Senator Atkins about energy and infrastructure funding and partnership opportunities,” said Sandra L. Kerl, General Manager of the Water Authority. “This has long been one of the top legislative priorities for water and wastewater agencies – and the pandemic has highlighted the need for continued investments in these projects that produce jobs as well as generational benefits.”

State Sen. Toni Atkins receives CMUA Safe Drinking Water Champion Award January 27, 2020 in Sacramento

Atkins Receives Safe Drinking Water Champion Award

California State Senate President pro Tem Toni Atkins of San Diego on Monday received the 2019 Safe Drinking Water Champion Award from the California Municipal Utilities Association in Sacramento.

“The award recognizes Senator Atkins’ leadership to work collaboratively with her colleagues in the Senate, Assembly and Governor’s office in securing funding for communities that do not have access to safe drinking water,” said Danielle Blacet-Hyden, CMUA director for water, as she presented Senator Atkins with the award.

Safe and Affordable Drinking Water Fund of 2019

In her role as leader of the Senate, Atkins was instrumental in bringing California together to find consensus and common ground that resulted in passage of the Safe and Affordable Drinking Water Fund of 2019. This long-term funding solution – a total of $1.3 billion over the next 10 years – will help ensure safe drinking water for the estimated 1 million Californians who currently lack it, and also fix failing water systems in vulnerable communities. 

“Lack of clean water is something that seems almost unimaginable in 21st century California – yet there still are communities that do not have pure, wholesome, and potable water to drink, bathe, and use in their daily lives,” said Atkins during the award presentation. “Last year we passed a law that includes an ongoing source of funding to provide safe and affordable drinking water to communities suffering from contaminated supplies, without any new taxes or charges on working Californians or on our farming industry.”

Safe water without a drinking water tax

Atkins worked to secure safe water without adding a water tax. 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.

“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,” said Glenn Farrel, director of government relations for the Water Authority.

Representing San Diego, Atkins was elected to the Assembly in 2010 and became Assembly Speaker in 2014. After one year in the Senate, in March 2018 she was sworn in as Senate President pro Tempore, becoming the first woman to lead the Legislature’s upper house.

The CMUA represents its members’ interests on energy and water issues before the California Legislature, the Governor’s Office and regulatory bodies, such as the California Energy Commission, the California Air Resources Board, the Department of Water Resources, the California Independent System Operator, and the State Water Resources Control Board. It was initially formed in 1932 to represent California’s community-owned electric utilities.

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.