Jul 25, 2019

California Dedicates $1 Billion to Clean Drinking Water

326 California water agencies are out of compliance with current standards

326 California water agencies are out of compliance with current standards

California Gov. Gavin Newsom signed a $1 billion package to help 1 million residents gain access to clean drinking water.

According to Governing, Newsom signed SB200, which establishes a fund for communities struggling to maintain their water systems, Wednesday, July 24 in Sanger, Calif. Activists lobbied to create a program to supplement federal and state grants to assist poor communities through water treatment projects. 

326 water agencies serving nearly one million California residents are out of compliance with current state standards, and this bill aims to address those compliance issues. According to Governing, the number of people without clean water is higher when counting citizens who rely on private wells. 

"The fact that more than a million Californians can't rely on clean water to drink or bathe in is a moral disgrace," Newsom said in a statement. "Parents shouldn't have to worry about their kids drinking from the water fountain at school, and families shouldn't have to dump water over their heads to shower every day."

According to Governing, pollution in agricultural communities is mainly concentrated in Central Valley and Salinas Valley. Nitrates from pesticides, fertilizer runoff, dairy waste and arsenic often contaminate water systems in these areas, and scientists believe the contaminants also are released into aquifers from overpumping. 

Water quality testing also revealed hundreds of California schools with elevated lead levels due to lead pipe and lead taps. The lack of money for operations and maintenance has posed a barrier to  improve people’s access to clean water, Ellen Hanak, director of the PPIC Water Policy Center at the Public Policy Institute of California, said. 

“The new fund substantially addresses that problem,” Hanak said, according to Governing, “but experts will need to figure out solutions for unique problems in different communities so they don't require financial support indefinitely.”

Newson said he hoped to set a fee for clean-water customers and agribusiness that would not be at risk of cuts. However, he felt opposition from lawmakers, who were hesitant to pass another tax on residential water users.