Safe and Affordable Drinking Water Funds Authorized by State Water Board

By on August 24, 2019

The California State Water Resources Control Board announced on Wednesday that nearly a quarter billion dollars has been authorized for spending to aid local water systems provide safe, reliable drinking water to communities throughout the state. The State Water Board’s action will aid in the fulfillment of the 2012 Human Right to Water legislation (AB 685) recognizing that “every human being has the right to safe, clean, affordable, and accessible water adequate for human consumption, cooking, and sanitary purposes.”

The board has authorized funds from three different sources to begin closing the safe drinking water gap for more than one million California residents. Authorized funds include:

  • $130 million this year from the Safe and Affordable Drinking Water Fund. Last month, Governor Gavin Newsom signed Senate Bill 200, authored by Sen. Bill Monning (D-17th District-Carmel), which created the fund to provide a reliable source of ongoing funding for safe drinking water needs using revenue from the state’s cap-and-trade program
  • $80 million in one-time appropriations from Proposition 68, the statewide bond measure voters passed in 2018, and
  • $31.5 million in one-time, legislatively sanctioned General Fund dollars to provide emergency funding for projects serving disadvantaged communities.

“Communities across the state have struggled for far too long without access to safe drinking water,” said State Water Resources Control Board Chair E. Joaquin Esquivel. “With today’s action, we can begin to close this gap and ensure that the essential human right to safe and affordable water is provided to all Californians.”

Many communities are served by small drinking water systems and are vulnerable to water quality violations. However, they often lack the financial capacity to build, operate and maintain necessary treatment facilities. Additionally, many communities and thousands of domestic well users across the state lack safe drinking water because of contamination by arsenic, nitrates and other chemicals.

With the infusion of the newly authorized funds, the State Water Board will be able to comprehensively address the full array of issues that prevent water systems from providing safe and affordable drinking water. This may include operating and maintaining modernized treatment systems, building the technical and managerial capacity of local water systems, and consolidating smaller systems with nearby larger ones.

Whereas many of the smaller water systems lacked the funding and technical and managerial expertise to operate the necessary infrastructure to provide clean, safe and reliable water, the new funds open this pathway for these systems. The funding also will allow small water systems to access resources for new treatment facilities and other needed infrastructure.

Staff members with the State Water Board have outlined their plan for implementing the Safe and Affordable Drinking Water Program which was presented to the board’s members. During the first year of implementation most of the funding will be used to award grants and contracts with assistance providers to address immediate drinking water and public health needs. In the short term, they will begin to plan and implement long-term solutions in hundreds of communities around the state. In addition to the $130 million authorized this year by the State Water Board from the Safe and Affordable Drinking Water Fund, this same amount has also been approved for the next 10 years to further the state clean, safe and reliable water needs.

“This funding is the keystone to a comprehensive program the State Water Board has built over the last several years to help local water systems,” said Esquivel. “It will allow us to provide immediate safe drinking water supplies and help ensure the long-term sustainability of community water systems.”