Brown signs human right to water bills
By Dan Bacher
Governor Jerry Brown signed Assembly Bill 983, The Access to Safe Drinking Water Act, on October 7 as part of the Human Right to Water bill package backed by a broad coalition of environmental justice advocates.
The Governor also signed three other bills in the package: AB 938 by Assemblymember V. Manuel Pérez (D-Coachella), AB 1221 by Assemblymember Luis Alejo (D-Salinas) and SB 244 by Senator Lois Wolk (D-Davis).
Assemblymember Henry T. Perea (D-Fresno) introduced The Access to Safe Drinking Water Act to provide disadvantaged communities with the opportunity to apply for state grants that fund the entire cost of desperately needed water infrastructure projects they otherwise couldn’t afford.
“When we talk about the need for clean water, we are not talking about far away third-world countries, we are talking about communities not far from where we all live,” Assemblymember Perea said. “Funding for these projects shouldn’t be a hurdle that prevents families from enjoying clean, safe drinking water.”
State grants already available to disadvantaged communities cover up to 80 percent of a project’s costs but those communities often can’t afford to fund the remaining 20 percent of the project without raising water rates. AB 983 gives them the chance to apply for a grant that would fund 100 percent of a water infrastructure project.
Governor Edmund G. Brown Jr. noted that he signed this bill as part of a series of bills “to help ensure the availability of clean drinking water to all Californians.”
“Clean drinking water is a basic human right,” said Governor Brown. “The bills I have signed today will help ensure that every Californian has access to clean and safe sources of water. Protecting the water we drink is an absolutely crucial duty of state government.”
The bills that Brown signed include:
AB 54 by Assemblymember Jose Solorio (D-Santa Ana) – Drinking water.
AB 938 by Assemblymember V. Manuel Pérez (D-Coachella) – Public water systems.
AB 1194 by Assemblymember Marty Block (D-San Diego) – Drinking water.
AB 1221 by Assemblymember Luis Alejo (D-Salinas) – State Water Quality Control Fund: State Water Pollution Cleanup and Abatement Account.
AB 1292 by Assemblymember Roger Hernandez (D-Baldwin Park) – Safe Drinking Water State Revolving Fund: revenue bonds.
SB 244 by Senator Lois Wolk (D-Davis) – Local government: land use: general plan: disadvantaged unincorporated communities.
While four bills that were part of the Human Right to Water Package were signed by the Governor, AB 685 (Eng-D Monterey Park), the Human Right to Water Measure, was held in the Senate Appropriations Commiteee and never reached Brown’s desk.
California’s failure to provide clean, safe drinking water to its residents captured the attention of the United Nations in a special report released in August as a package of “human right to water” bills proceeded through the State Capitol.
Reporting on her mission to the United States last winter, Catarina de Albuquerque, the U.N. Special Rapportuer on the Human Right to Safe Drinking Water and Sanitation, cited a host of alarming drinking water supply and sanitation conditions in California.
“Ensuring the rights to water and sanitation for all requires a paradigm shift towards new designs and approaches that promote human rights, that are affordable and that create more value in terms of public health improvements, community development, and global ecosystem protection,” de Albuquerque wrote.
Organizations supporting the Human Right to Water package include the Community Water Center, Unitarian Universalist Service Committee, Winnemem Wintu Tribe, Environmental Justice Coalition for Water and Food & Water Watch.
While Brown signed the series of drinking water bills, his administration continues to push for the construction of the enormously expensive and environmentally destructive peripheral canal through the Bay Delta Conservation Plan (BDCP). The peripheral canal is designed to increase water exports from the Sacramento-San Joaquin River Delta to agribusiness and southern California.
If built, the peripheral canal would lead to the extinction of Central Valley steelhead, Sacramento River chinook salmon, Delta smelt, longfin smelt, Sacramento splittail, green sturgeon and other imperiled Delta fish populations. The BDCP would also take vast tracts of Delta farmland, some of the most fertile land on the planet, out of production to irrigate drainage impaired land on the west side of the San Joaquin valley.