State Budget Provides Resources and Tools to Address California Drinking Water Crisis
Today is a landmark day in the movement for water justice. As part of the budget legislative package, CWC and our partners secured not one, not two, but THREE big wins! We now have stronger tools to facilitate consolidations, public access to well logs, and a better agency financing system. We've been campaigning on some of these issues for half a decade, so we hope you will join us in spreading the news and celebrating today!!
Drought Consolidation Legislation
The new drought consolidation tools are a game changer. In many cases, local drinking water challenges can be addressed simply by connecting residents on private domestic wells or very small water systems to larger, neighboring systems. Unfortunately, these mergers often fail to happen because the communities face legal, social, political, or economic barriers to consolidating. The new legislation encourages and incentivizes voluntary consolidations, and when these barriers cannot be overcome voluntarily, the State Water Resources Control Board can intervene to facilitate a timely consolidation. We estimate roughly 150 small water systems that cannot reliably provide safe water to their customers would benefit from consolidation with neighboring water systems.
To ensure we're using Proposition One Water Bond funds in the most cost-effective and sustainable way, we need to invest in drinking water solutions that are resilient to future droughts. Consolidating with neighboring water systems is often the best way of creating sustainable regional drinking water solutions, so we are thrilled to have the tools and timeline to invest strategically in lasting, affordable drinking water solutions. Read more about the landmark consolidation bill here.
Lifting the Secrecy on Well Logs
California’s vast database of 800,000 well completion reports, known as "well logs," has been kept secret from the public for the past 64 years. The new legislation makes this data publicly accessible, which is an important step toward better groundwater management. Keeping well logs confidential has prevented California from fully understanding the geological, hydrological, and water quality characteristics of the state's groundwater basins necessary to sustainably manage this resource. During this drought and future ones, data like this will help drought-impacted communities prevent water contamination or complete water loss. To read more about why this is important, check out our op-ed in The Guardian.
Better State Financing
Last but not least, today's legislation also approved a new agency financing system that will enable the State Water Resources Control Board to better meet California’s drinking water needs. By restructuring the Drinking Water Program fees, the Board will better represent the costs of the program and thus more efficiently serve all water systems. The budget legislation leveraged the drought crisis into an opportunity to create drinking water solutions we can sustain, and we are excited to work with communities to turn these policy wins into solutions on the ground.
Two Policies We're Still Pushing
Even with these wins, it's important to point out that our state leaders failed to push forward two key policies: first, resources to map who lacks access to safe, affordable water, and second, funding to implement solutions for schools that lack safe water. These two policies are crucial to understanding and addressing our drinking water crisis. Without data on which Californians lack access to safe, clean, and affordable water, we cannot deliver on the promise of AB 685, California’s Human Right to Water Bill. CWC and our allies will continue advocating for both of these policies through legislation and administrative action in the weeks and months ahead. For today, though, we are celebrating the huge policy and funding wins in this year’s budget legislation!
Letters and phone calls to elected officials from supporters like you created the political momentum that secured these wins! Thanks to those of you who stepped up as advocates! To help us continue building the movement for water justice, please share this email with a friend and encourage them to sign up for our action alerts.