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Connect the Drops

California’s Can’t-Miss Chance to Provide Safe Drinking Water for All

State legislators have until the end of the month to pass the Safe and Affordable Drinking Water Fund. There is an urgent need to provide clean drinking water to the 1 million Californians who lack access to such supplies, says Kirsten James of Ceres.

Written by Kirsten James Published on Read time Approx. 3 minutes
A sign outside the Lafayette Reservoir in Lafayette, California.Smith Collection/Gado/Getty Images

The clock is ticking to ensure clean drinking water is available to all in California. Legislators have just five days to help an estimated 1 million Californians access safe and affordable drinking water from their faucets. In the world’s fifth-largest economy, there should be no question about voting “yes” for the Safe and Affordable Drinking Water Fund (SB 844 and SB 845). Stories we’ve heard from around the state make the need all the more compelling.

Ceres and many of our company partners have strongly supported the creation of a Safe and Affordable Drinking Water Fund in California. Some employees, some customers and some of their supply-chain farmers may very well reside in the communities facing clean water shortages. Those communities number more than 300, according to the State Water Resources Control Board, and as many as 360,000 to 1 million people are affected. Our company partners know that they too can help conserve water and preserve water quality within their supply chains and operations to help ensure sustainable water supplies in California. But we need our policymakers to help create a pathway for safe drinking water for all.

When Ceres and a dozen company partners went to Sacramento last week to talk with legislators about the importance of legislation ensuring safe and affordable drinking water for all, stories from other advocates visiting Sacramento the same day and several legislative offices we met with furthered our resolve to make sure SB 844 and SB 845 are adopted.

In the district of Assembly member Rudy Salas (D-Bakersfield), two wells recently collapsed in the town of Stratford, leaving many residents without drinking water. Life without usable water from their household faucets has been tough, staff reported. An aide to Assemblyman Joaquin Arambula (D-Fresno) talked about some of the district’s smaller communities trying to cope with water-quality issues.

The same day we visited Sacramento, scores of residents who are struggling with lack of access to safe water were walking the halls of the Capitol to share their current reality of life without reliable water supplies. Those stories drove home for us just how very important access to clean, safe drinking water is. Water is essential to life.

That’s why the legislative effort to make sure clean drinking water is available to all through the Safe and Affordable Drinking Water Fund is so important to us. Fixing contaminated water and ensuring that every Californian has safe drinkable water is an imperative. We cannot let another year go by with 1 million of our neighbors exposed to contaminated water.

So I was very pleased last week when state legislators revived Safe and Affordable Drinking Water Fund legislation with a compromise that would still provide the funds needed to ensure safe drinking water supplies for all – it asks residential water users to pay voluntarily 95 cents a month. SB 845 includes the modified proposal that makes the user fee optional. Given recent polling that shows Californians’ overwhelming willingness to pay, we anticipate sufficient funds will still be generated.

The previous iteration of the policy proposal, SB 623, also called for dairy farmers and fertilizer users to pay a fertilizer fee, since some of the water contamination problem arises from fertilizer runoff. The agricultural fee on fertilizers will now be covered in SB 844, and is nearly identical as originally proposed except that the fee is slightly larger.

The proposed legislation in SB 844 and SB 845 is supported by a historic coalition of agricultural, environmental justice and business interests, among others. This diverse coalition understands the critical importance of safe and affordable drinking water for all Californians. Now we just need our legislators to step up.

We urge our legislators to vote yes on SB 844 and SB 845 when they come to vote this week.

The views expressed in this article belong to the author and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of Water Deeply.

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