SACRAMENTO – California’s water regulator voted Tuesday to spend $1.3 billion over the next 10 years to provide safe drinking water to communities throughout California.
The money allocated by the State Water Resources Control Board comes from the Safe and Affordable Drinking Water Fund, created last month when Gov. Gavin Newsom signed Senate Bill 200.
Also known as the California Safe Drinking Water Act, the legislation written by state Senator Bill Monning, D-Carmel, guarantees $130 million annually for safe drinking water through 2030, using revenue from California’s cap-and-trade program. The budget passed by the Legislature in June provides the funding for this year.
Newsom signed the bill in an unincorporated community outside of Sanger in California’s Central Valley, calling it a “disgrace” that millions of Californians cannot rely on having safe drinking water.
The law requires the state water board to develop a plan on how to spend the money to address failing water systems throughout the state.
The central San Joaquin Valley is especially plagued by a clean water shortage. While it makes up 10% of the state’s total population, it’s home to more than half of the public drinking water systems that are out of compliance with state law.
Because of contaminants like arsenic and nitrates or the deadly solvent 1,2,3, trichloropropane (TCP), the water board estimates that more than a half-million California residents lack access to water fit for consumption.
“Communities across the state have struggled for far too long without access to safe drinking water,” said State Water Resources Control Board Chair E. Joaquin Esquivel. “With today’s action, we can begin to close this gap and ensure that the essential human right to safe and affordable water is provided to all Californians.”
The board plans to use the new funding to operate and maintain updated water treatment systems and link smaller local water systems to larger ones. The board says consolidation is more efficient and can bring down the cost of delivering clean drinking water to rural parts of the state.
This year’s funding will be used to award grants that will address short-term drinking water needs, the board said.
— By Maria Dinzeo