SB 623 (Monning): Safe and Affordable Drinking Water Fund


Background

Recent California State Water Resources Control Board (SWB) data identified roughly 300 California public water systems serving communities currently out of compliance with drinking water standards, some of which have been unable to provide safe drinking water for multiple years. Drinking water advocates estimate over 1 million Californians are exposed to unsafe drinking water each year. Additionally, nearly 2 million Californians utilize domestic wells and/or state small water systems that are not eligible for most assistance programs, leaving them particularly vulnerable to unsafe drinking water. Drinking water contaminants are dangerous and can cause a variety of both short and long-term health effects, with children and the elderly typically at greatest risk.

For years, the SWB has called for the creation of a new sustainable funding source to support safe drinking water needs, since other sources of funding, such as bond funding or the Safe Drinking Water State Revolving Fund (SDWSRF) do not qualify to be used to support urgent needs like ongoing operations and maintenance costs for drinking water treatment. Small, rural and/or socioeconomically disadvantaged communities lack sufficient ratepayer base  to afford the entire cost of ongoing drinking water treatment.  The lack of a sustainable funding source means disadvantaged communities and others have no outside support to draw upon forcing them to choose between water they cannot afford or water that they cannot drink.

 

Solution

SB 623 will establish the Safe and Affordable Drinking Water Fund to provide an ongoing source of funding to ensure all Californians have access to safe drinking water.

The Safe and Affordable Drinking Water Fund will be located at SWB in its Office of Sustainable Water Solutions, which is best situated to leverage other sources of existing or new funding. In addition, it will provide for coordination with the newly created multi-disciplinary technical assistance program focused entirely on the needs of small disadvantaged communities, so that it may efficiently and effectively secure safe drinking water to impacted communities and residents throughout the state.

The SWB, in consultation with a multi-disciplinary stakeholder group and after adoption of a fund implementation plan and needs assessment, shall prioritize funding to focus on disadvantaged communities and low-income domestic well users with exceedances of primary drinking water standards where the cost of treatment or new sources would otherwise make the cost of the water service unaffordable. The funds collected will also provide for costs where no other currently existing sources of funding available.

Funding shall come from a safe drinking water fee in the form of a fertilizer mill fee, a safe drinking water fee on dairies, and a new small safe drinking water fee assessed monthly on water bills. The combined fees will raise an estimated total of $140 million annually for the first two years, and thereafter can be kept consistent or reduced by the State Water Board based on its annual needs assessments. Fees cannot be adjusted to exceed the caps identified in statute.  For single-family homes and most multi-family homes and businesses, the monthly safe drinking water fee is capped at a maximum of $.95 cents, with an exemption from the fee for low-income households (under 200% of the federal poverty level).

The policies represented in SB 623 are informed by years of experience and discussion about how to solve California’s long-standing gap in operations and maintenance funding for drinking water treatment. They are the result of over a year of bipartisan policy discussions, convened by the author, Senate Majority Leader Senator Bill Monning, and crafted with input from major environmental justice, environmental, water, health, and agricultural stakeholders. And the historically diverse coalition behind SB 623 is a testament to the urgency of this issue and the unique opportunity represented by SB 623 to finally secure safe drinking water for all Californians – both now and generations to come.

Supporters of the Bill

Agricultural Council of California

Allensworth Community Services District

Alliance of Child and Family Services

Almond Alliance

American Heart Association

American Rivers

American Stroke Association

Armona Community Services District

Arvin Community Services District

American Stroke Association

Asian Pacific Environmental Network

Asociación de Gente Unida por el Agua

Black Women for Wellness

California Audubon

California Bicycle Coalition

California Citrus Mutual

CA Environmental Justice Alliance

California Food Policy Advocates

California Fresh Fruit Association

California Housing Partnership

California Labor Federation

CA League of Conservation Voters

California Rice Commission

CA Partnership for the San Joaquin Valley

CA Rural Legal Assistance

    Foundation

CA Pan-Ethnic Health Network

California Strawberry Commission

California Water Service

Catholic Charities, Diocese of Stockton

Central California Environmental Network

Central California Environmental Justice

    Network

Center for Race, Poverty, and the     Environment

Ceres

Church Brothers Farms

City of Arvin

City of Hanford

City of Huron

City of Porterville

Clean Water Action

Clif Bar

Comite Civico del Valle

Common Sense Kids Action

Community Alliance for Agroecology

Community Water Center

Costa Farms

County of Tulare

Cultiva la Salud

D’Arrigo Brothers of California

Dolores Huerta Foundation

Driscoll’s

EILEEN FISHER

El Quinto Sol de America

Environmental Defense Fund

Esperanza Community Housing CA

Faith in the Valley

Farm Bureau Monterey

Foxy Produce

Fresno Building Healthy Communities

Friends Committee on Legislation of CA

Friends of Calwa

Gap, Inc.

Grower-Shopper Association of Central California

Kaweah Basin Water Quality Association

Kaweah Delta Water Conservation District

Kern County Farm Bureau

Latino Coalition for a Healthy America

Leadership Counsel for Justice and Accountability

League of Women Voters

Lutheran Office of Public Policy

Merrill Farms

Mission Readiness: Council for a Strong America

Monterey County Board of Supervisors

Naturipe

NextGen California

Pacific Institute

Pacific Water Quality Association

Pepsico

Physicians for Social Responsibility Los

    Angeles

Planning and Conservation League

Policy Link

Poplar Community Services District

Public Health Advocates

Public Interest Law Project

Pueblo Unido CDC

Rava Ranches

Rio Farms

Rural County Representatives of California

Rural County Assurance Corporation

Salinas Basin Agricultural Stewardship Group

Self Help Enterprises

Service Employees International Union

Sierra Nevada Brewing Company

State Building and Construction Trades Council

Strategic Actions for a Just Economy

Strategic Concepts in Organizing & Policy Education

Sultana Community Services District

Sunflower Alliance

The Coca-Cola Company

TransForm

United Farm Workers

Water Quality Association

Western Center on Law & Poverty

Western Growers

Western United Dairymen

Wholly H2O