Safe and Affordable Drinking Water Needs Recognized in California's Budget

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Tuesday, January 10, 2017

Advocates Say Administration and Legislature Must Create a Sustainable Funding Source to Guarantee Safe Water

Sacramento, CA January 10, 2017 --- Water justice advocates and environmental, health, rural, equity, and environmental justice organizations were encouraged that language in the Governor’s budget referenced safe and affordable water. However, advocates urged the Governor to prioritize developing a sustainable funding source this year to ensure all Californians have safe and affordable drinking water.

Each year, more than 1 million Californians are served water that does not meet safe drinking water standards. The State Water Resources Control Board maintains a list of 296 small public water systems and schools that have been unable to supply safe drinking water to their communities for several years or even decades.

The Governor’s Budget states, “Although much progress has been made, some disadvantaged communities rely on contaminated groundwater and lack the resources to operate and maintain their water systems to deliver safe and affordable water. The Administration is committed to working with the Legislature and stakeholders to address this issue.

Water justice advocates have been working for years to secure a sustainable source of funding to address water affordability challenges and meet both capital costs and operation and maintenance (O&M) needs in low-income communities impacted by nitrates, arsenic, pesticides, and other contaminants.

“It is unjust and unfair that we have had to live with contaminated water coming out of our taps for over a decade,” said Sandra Meraz, a resident of Alpaugh, a small community in Tulare County. “The state has helped, and we’re finally moving forward with a treatment plant, but our community needs support to cover the O&M costs. We need the Governor to get funding in place to guarantee us safe and affordable water.”

Specific remarks from members of the Drinking Water Advocates Coalition and its partners:

“Like in Flint, California’s low-income communities and communities of color are forced to bear the burden of the drinking water challenges in our state. We appreciate the Governor’s commitment and look forward to working with the Governor and Legislature to ensure communities have access to the ongoing funding they need to get safe water.”

Susana De Anda, Co-Executive Director, Community Water Center

"The Governor has long recognized the importance of safe drinking water for all Californians, and we appreciate his backing up this recognition today in his statement. The Legislature, too, has been an ally on this, and we look forward to working with them on this over the coming months to flesh out the details.”

Jennifer Clary, Water Programs Manager, Clean Water Action California

“In addition to water quality, the Governor’s budget must address water affordability. It is unacceptable that some families are paying up to 10 percent of their income on drinking water alone.”

Phoebe Seaton, Co-Executive Director, Leadership Counsel for Justice and Accountability

“The cost and complexity of treating California groundwater that is becomingly increasingly contaminated is escalating.  Much as we appreciate the Governor's proposed funding; we hope to work with the Governor and Legislature to address these issues in a more comprehensive way beyond just the resources the Governor can commit from the annual state budget.”

Stan Keasling, Chief Executive Officer, Rural Community Assistance Corporation

“We applaud the Governor’s commitment to address the needs of drought-impacted areas yet feel additional funding is needed to address the magnitude of needs in our most vulnerable communities. It is essential that the State also makes emergency operations funding available that can pay for unexpected expenses when systems have emergency outages unrelated to the drought.”

Tom Collishaw, Chief Executive Officer, Self-Help Enterprises

“On behalf of low-income Californians who struggle to afford enough food and also struggle without safe drinking water, we continue the call for two types of solutions: those that are immediate and those that are sustainable. Sustainable, long-term solutions, including funding sources, must be part of the state’s budget response while also addressing an immediate need for water that just can’t wait.”

George Manalo-LeClair, Executive Director, California Food Policy Advocates

“California has an ugly history of failing to make sure low-income communities have drinkable water. The budget proposal is another step to rectifying this. But there is still more to do.”

Kyle Jones, Policy Advocate, Sierra Club California

“All Californians deserve reliable access to clean, safe drinking water. As President-elect Trump moves to dismantle the EPA and roll back the Clean Water Act it is incumbent upon California’s elected leaders to act to expand access to safe drinking water for all our communities.”

Sarah Rose, Executive Director, California League of Conservation Voters

“Throughout the world, clean safe drinking water is considered the most essential of public health guarantees.  Shouldn’t it be available to everyone in our Golden State? Of course it should!”

Dr. Harold Goldstein, DrPH, Executive Director, Public Health Advocates (formerly California Center for Public Health Advocacy)

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