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Executive Summary for June 8th

In this weekly roundup, we analyze key water developments around the West, including funding for California’s Proposition 68, a settlement over Nestlé’s water permit in a Southern California forest and a national bill to tackle water affordability.

Published on June 8, 2018 Read time Approx. 3 minutes

New California Water Bond Passes

Californians voted this week to pass Proposition 68, which would dole out $4.1 billion for water, parks and conservation projects – the first of two water bonds to be voted on this year in California.

The California Drought, Water, Parks, Climate, Coastal Protection and Outdoor Access for All Act of 2018, also known as Prop. 68, was authored by state Senator Kevin de León (D-Los Angeles), and, as Water Deeply reported recently, almost two-thirds of the money would go towards park and wildlife projects, but some of that would indirectly benefit water quality efforts.

In addition, about $1.6 billion will go directly to water-related projects including helping to implement California’s groundwater law, aiding ecosystems like the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta and helping to provide clean drinking water in disadvantaged communities.

The bond will also provide $200 million for Salton Sea projects to help restore wetlands and curb the environmental and health impacts of the expanding playa around the lake. “It’s very exciting. I think right now the biggest challenge will be for the state of California to honor the trust of the California voters,” Frank Ruiz, Salton Sea program director for Audubon California, told the Desert Sun. “Addressing the crisis of the Salton Sea should be now one of the top priorities for officials in the state.”

Lawsuit Over Nestlé’s Expired Permit Settled

A lawsuit filed by three nonprofits over Nestlé’s use of an expired permit to take water from public lands in Southern California for water bottling has been settled. But the bigger issue remains.

The Center for Biological Diversity, Courage Campaign Institute and the Story of Stuff Project filed the lawsuit after the Desert Sun reported that Nestlé was using a permit from the U.S. Forest Service that expired in 1988 to take water from the San Bernardino National Forest. Environmental groups contend that the company’s water withdrawals are reducing water in Strawberry Creek and impacting plants and wildlife.

But the Center for Biological Diversity reported this week that the group had reached an agreement with the government, which would give the Forest Service 30 days to decide whether it will issue a new permit for Nestlé to continue its water-bottling related withdrawals in the San Bernardino.

The groups are urging the Forest Service to deny the new permit and under the terms of the settlement have the right to challenge the decision.

National Effort to Tackle Water Affordability

Water rates are on the rise across the country in many places, hitting low-income Americans hard. A new bill introduced in the Senate would help families pay for water and sewer bills.

The Water Affordability Act of 2018 was introduced in the Senate by Kamala D. Harris (D-Calif.) and would have the Environmental Protection Agency establish a Low Income Sewer and Water Assistance Program that would administer grants to help low-income families with the rising costs of water and sewer rates.

“No family should have to choose between paying for safe, clean drinking water and putting food on the table. Access to affordable clean water is a fundamental right,” said a statement from Senator Harris. “In California alone, rates for water have risen by as much as 71 percent in Los Angeles and as much as 127 percent in San Francisco within the past decade. That places a huge burden on families just trying to make ends meet, and it’s our responsibility to act.”

The Association of California Water Agencies (ACWA) has come out in support of the bill. “This bill establishes a grant based pilot project to help those most in need pay their sewer and drinking water bills,” said Tim Quinn, ACWA executive director. ACWA has been a vocal opponent of an effort in California to establish a fund for clean drinking water for disadvantaged communities that would be funded, in part, by a charge on residential water bills.

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