Legislation to Ensure Californians Have Safe Drinking Water Passes Committee
SB 778 provides a mechanism for the state to intervene in communities with water problems
SACRAMENTO – Legislation by Sen. Bob Hertzberg, D-Van Nuys, to ensure that all Californians have access to safe, affordable drinking water today passed the Senate Environmental Quality Committee.
SB 778 establishes the Safe Drinking Water Fund, a fund administered by the State Water Resources Control Board to support the human right to water. Specifically, the bill provides funds for the control board to intervene when local agencies are failing to provide drinkable water to residents and order remedies, such as appointing an administrator, to rectify the situation.
The bill passed the committee on a bipartisan 5-0 vote, with two other committee members expected to add on before the hearing concludes. SB 778 goes next to the Senate Appropriations Committee for consideration.
“We’ve all read about the immense problems with municipal water in Flint, Michigan and how devastating that has been for the city, its residents and its economy,” Hertzberg said. “The truth is California is full of communities with similar problems, and in 2017 that is completely unacceptable. This legislation provides a mechanism to fund action, so the state can do what is necessary to make sure all Californians have access to clean water.”
Under existing law, all Californians have a right to safe, clean, and affordable water for drinking, cooking and cleaning. However, many Californians living in the most disadvantaged communities are forced to rely on contaminated groundwater for their drinking water needs, and thousands of families are in homes with tap water that is so polluted that it cannot be safely consumed.
These communities often lack the resources needed to operate and maintain water treatment systems to deliver safe water to their residents. The State Water Resources Control Board currently maintains a list of under-resourced water systems on the Human Right to Water web portal, and according to the website, 292 public water systems are out of compliance with federal drinking water standards for contaminants such as nitrate and arsenic.
In recent years, some small water systems in disadvantaged communities have returned to compliance by consolidating with larger public water systems under authority granted in the 2015-16 state budget. If consolidation with another system is not appropriate or feasible, the water control board may intervene under state health and safety code to provide administrative, technical and managerial support or financial assistance for capital improvements or operations.
This legislation sets up a fund to pay for these activities. The bill also requires the water control board to publish the outcomes of the consolidations, including whether or not the consolidated systems are now being served with safe and affordable drinking water.
SB 778 is supported by Clean Water Action, the Community Water Center and the Leadership Counsel for Justice and Accountability.
Bob Hertzberg, chair of the Senate Committee on Natural Resources and Water, represents nearly 1 million San Fernando Valley residents of Senate District 18, which includes part of Burbank and the following communities in Los Angeles: Arleta, Granada Hills, Hansen Dam, Lake View Terrace, Mission Hills, North Hills, North Hollywood, part of Northridge, Pacoima, Panorama City, Sherman Oaks, Studio City, part of Sun Valley, Sylmar, Toluca Lake, Valley Glen, Valley Village, Van Nuys, the City of San Fernando and Universal City. See a district map at http://sd18.senate.ca.gov/district. After serving in the Assembly from 1996-2002, including two years as Speaker, Hertzberg invested in solar, wind and electric-car projects; and worked for structural changes in government through the Think Long Committee of California. Learn more at www.senate.ca.gov/hertzberg.
MEDIA CONTACT: Andrew LaMar
Senator Robert M. Hertzberg
Capitol Building, Room 4038
Sacramento, CA 95814