Legislative sessions are always full of ups and downs, and this year was no exception. The bills that successfully made their way through the Assembly and Senate will now move to the Governor’s desk.
With help from our allies and community partners, we achieved a lot this 2016 legislative session! We are proud that the Legislature passed six important bills to advance water justice and sustainable drinking water solutions. SB 1263 (Wieckowski) will allow the State Water Board to deny the creation of unsustainable water systems, and prevent the development of communities which would rely upon unsustainable water sources such as hauled and bottled water.
SB 552 (Wolk) creates the authority for the State Water Board to require a water system which consistently fails to provide safe drinking water to accept a limited-term contract administrator to help manage the system. SB 37 (Vidak) creates a special act Groundwater Sustainability Agency in the Kings Basin which includes a board which is representative of all beneficial users of the basin, including a seat for drinking water interests. SB 564 (Cannella) will also create a special act Groundwater Sustainability Agency within the Kings Basin and will include a Rural Community Advisory Committee. SB 1398 (Leyva) would develop an inventory of lead pipes in California’s water distribution, allowing us to better address water contamination caused by distribution lines. Lastly, SB 1000 (Leyva) would add an environmental justice element to land use and city general plans, which will help us reduce disproportionate impacts to low-income communities and communities of color.
Back in June, CWC helped secure $10 million in the 2016-17 State Budget for improved water quality and access to water in California schools. We are now working with the State Water Board and the California Department of Education on the guidelines for this grant program, which could provide safe drinking water to over 100,000 California students. CWC and our allies have been working to ensure that the funding gets to the schools that need it most, and we’ll continue advocating for equitable implementation of the funding as projects come to fruition.
While we had several victories this legislative session, several water justice bills CWC was working on did not make it through. AB 2124 (Garcia) would have required lead and copper testing from fountains in schools; AB 2099 (Stone) would have worked towards allowing low-income Californians to use their EBT cards to purchase drinking water; SB 1317 (Wolk) would have promoted groundwater sustainability by requiring drought-impacted groundwater basins to analyze the potential effects of permitting new wells; SB 1318 (Wolk) would have created a plan towards connecting communities who currently lack wastewater services or a sustainable source of drinking water to existing systems. SB 995 (Pavley) would have required the Department of Water Resources to update their model well ordinance.
For the policies that passed this year, we will monitor their implementation to ensure they make a difference in our communities. For the bills that did not make it through, we will continue working with our community partners and allies to ensure all communities have adequate access to safe, affordable water.
Thank you for your support during the legislative session! Phone calls, emails, and letters from supporters are crucial to realizing the human right to water in California. Please reach out to CWC’s policy team at 916-706-3346 if you have policy ideas you would like to advance in the 2017 legislative session. We’d love to hear from you!