The Governor’s water system consolidation budget trailer bill gives the state tools to help hundreds of California communities to access safe drinking water.
In 2012 California passed AB 685 proclaiming all its residents have a Human Right to Water. However, many small water systems that serve disadvantaged, often unincorporated communities do not have capacity to reliably deliver water, or adequately treat the water they supply, which exposes families to arsenic, nitrates and other contaminants that can cause devastating health effects. Many low-income families must purchase water for drinking and household use, which adds financial burden to already strained household budgets; and the state’s drought only makes the situation worse as wells continue to run dry.
The budget trailer bill authorizes the State Water Resources Control Board to order water system consolidation only in rare circumstances–if every other course of action fails to ensure that small water system customers have access to safe and affordable drinking water. Consolidation means that a neighboring water system will take over responsibility to provide drinking water service to customers of a smaller system that is unable to provide safe and reliable water to its customers.
Under the law, the state will step in only after all other voluntary measures are exhausted, and only after it consults with regional and local governments. If the state finds that consolidation is the best means to provide safe drinking water to customers in the area, it will commit technical assistance and resources to cover the costs.
“We did achieve a very significant victory for the Human Right to Water in the consolidation language that was included in the budget trailer bill language,” said Stanley Keasling, RCAC’s chief executive officer. “The state has committed to being a strong partner in our efforts to make sure that all Californians have access to safe drinking water, and this will be a great benefit to disadvantaged communities and the folks who live in these communities.”
RCAC is a nonprofit organization that provides training, technical and financial resources and advocacy so rural communities can achieve their goals and visions. Headquartered in West Sacramento, California, RCAC serves rural communities in the western United States and the Pacific islands. RCAC has strong core services and expertise in housing, environmental infrastructure (water, wastewater and solid waste), leadership training, economic development and financing.
Dawn Van Dyke
RCAC Communications Mgr.