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Bills To Create Drinking Water Fund Die In State Legislature

Community Water Center
San Joaquin Valley residents brought these water bottles with them to a hearing in March for legislation that would have established a fund to help communities pay for drinking water projects.

California’s legislative session ended last week, and with it, the hopes for a statewide pool of money that would have supported drinking water projects.

It was called the Safe and Affordable Drinking Water Fund, and it would have been available for disadvantaged communities in need of water cleanup projects. The fund would have been sourced by fees on residential water bills and on some agricultural producers.

But the two bills that set the framework for the fund died in the state assembly last week as California’s legislative deadline passed by.

Phoebe Seaton is co-director of the Leadership Counsel for Justice and Accountability, an advocacy group who supported the fund. She says this was a missed opportunity and that surveys had shown Californians generally supported paying into the fund.

“We’re disappointed to see that leadership wasn’t responding to the constituents and wasn’t responding to this need,” she says.

The bills had broad support from two groups typically at odds: Clean water advocates and the agricultural industry, though many cities and leagues of local governments opposed them. Seaton says backers of the bills plan to evaluate new opportunities to try again.

“I’m really really proud of the coalition that’s come together on this, all the people who were working really really hard on this, and to the leadership that did step up,” she says.

The bills were co-authored by State Senators Bill Monning, a Democrat, and Republican Andy Vidak, and they had support from Governor Brown’s office.

Kerry Klein is an award-winning reporter whose coverage of public health, air pollution, drinking water access and wildfires in the San Joaquin Valley has been featured on NPR, KQED, Science Friday and Kaiser Health News. Her work has earned numerous regional Edward R. Murrow and Golden Mike Awards and has been recognized by the Association of Health Care Journalists and Society of Environmental Journalists. Her podcast Escape From Mammoth Pool was named a podcast “listeners couldn’t get enough of in 2021” by the radio aggregator NPR One.
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