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With Updated Budget, Safe Drinking Water Fund Inches Closer To Reality

California's State Capitol Building
Photo used under Creative Commons from Andy Patterson / Modern Relics

For the first time in two years, legislators in Sacramento may have paved the way toward establishing a statewide safe drinking water fund.

Governor Gavin Newsom’s latest state budget allocates over $100 million this year to a fund that would support drinking water projects in disadvantaged communities. The current language calls for roughly $1.4 billion over the next 11 years. “That is historic, it’s unprecedented,” says Jonathan Nelson, policy director for the non-profit advocacy organization Community Water Center. “The fact that those funds will be prioritized for our most vulnerable communities, in both rural and urban areas, is unprecedented.”

Lawmakers over the weekend did away with an earlier proposal from Newsom that would have supplied the fund with a monthly tax on water users. They also got rid of a provision that would have collected fees from water-polluting corporations like dairies and fertilizer producers. Instead, they’ve crafted a plan that would draw the majority of its funding from cap and trade reserves.

Depending on how budget and trailer bill negotiations shake out by the legislative deadline of June 15, the fund could be up and running by July.

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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