FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
June 13, 2016
Jenny Rempel, 916-706-3346
Sacramento, CA – Low and fixed income residents struggle to pay their water bills, yet existing law deters local agencies from providing these Californians with financial assistance. Senate Bill 1298 (Hertzberg) would allow water agencies to voluntarily set rate structures that provide lifeline rates to qualified customers.
Californians are legally guaranteed the Human Right to Water, but despite the importance of access to a basic amount of safe water, low-income individuals and families on public water systems are not protected from unaffordable rates. Low-income discount programs already exist for gas and electric bills, as well as for private water agencies, in California, and life-line rates are widely regarded as a best practice in water management around the world.
With the drought, many water systems are raising their rates, which leaves low-income residents and senior citizens on fixed incomes unable to pay higher water bills. Some residents are forced to pay more than ten percent of their income for water alone. To date, Proposition 218 has been narrowly interpreted to deter local agencies from providing them with financial assistance. SB 1298 would enable local water agencies to establish life-line water rates to qualified customers.
“It’s time to make sure low-income Californians stop getting hung out to dry by unaffordable water rates,” said Laurel Firestone, Co-Executive Director of the Community Water Center. “SB 1298 is a thoughtful clarification of Proposition 218 to allow water agencies to finally establish the life-line water rates that low and fixed income Californians need.”
Life-line rates are already required of the private water agencies in California that are regulated by the Public Utilities Commission. Those programs cost less than 40 cents per customer per month.
“To establish water affordability and secure the Human Right to Water for all Californians, we need to ensure local water agencies can establish life-line water rates,” said Firestone.
Community Water Center (CWC) is a non-profit environmental justice organization based in California’s San Joaquin Valley, whose mission is to act as a catalyst for community-driven water solutions through organizing, education, and advocacy. CWC’s fundamental goal is to ensure that all communities have access to safe, clean, and affordable water. CWC employs three primary strategies in order to accomplish this goal: 1) educate, organize, and provide assistance to low-income communities of color facing local water challenges, 2) advocate for systemic change to address the root causes of unsafe drinking water in the San Joaquin Valley, and 3) serve as a resource for information and expertise on community water challenges. CWC helps build strategic grassroots capacity to address water challenges in small, rural, low-income communities and communities of color. For more information, visit CWC’s website at www.communitywatercenter.org.