Wieckowski safe drinking water bill clears key Assembly committee

SB 1263 improves oversight to ensure smaller agencies can provide safe, clean drinking water to all customers, including schools

June 14, 2016

Sacramento – A bill by Senator Bob Wieckowski (D-Fremont) to better ensure that small, public water agencies are able to provide long-term delivery of safe, clean drinking water passed the state Assembly’s Environmental Safety and Toxic Materials Committee today.  SB 1263 will next be heard in the Water, Parks and Wildlife Committee on June 28.

“Californians should not have to wonder if the water coming out of their faucets at home or their children’s school playground is suitable for drinking,” said Wieckowski, chair of the Senate Environmental Quality Committee.  “All Californians have a right to safe, clean drinking water and this bill will enable us to prevent unsustainable small public water districts from being established in the first place.  If districts cannot show they have the wherewithal to handle common long-term challenges, they should not be approved.  These are the districts that often fail to meet our water quality standards.”

There are more than 7,600 public water systems in California and most of them serve fewer than 200 connections.  SB 1263 gives the State Water Resources Control Board (SWRCB) a stronger role in ensuring such systems are not approved if they are unnecessary.  The bill requires those seeking permits for new public water systems to meet several requirements, including examining the feasibility of adjacent water systems and annexing, connecting or otherwise supplying water to the service area.  It also requires a cost comparison between a new system and consolidating, annexing or connecting to an existing water system.  Applicants must also identify all proposed sources of water for the new system. 

In its 2015 “Safe Drinking Water Plan for California,” the SWRCB concluded that many small water systems lack the ability to meet safe drinking water standards.

“SB 1263 furthers the Human Right to Water (law) passed in 2012 by preventing the proliferation of small public water systems that may not have the technical, managerial, or financial capacity to adequately and reliably provide safe, clean, and affordable drinking water to its service area,” said Debi Ores, an attorney and legislative advocate with the Community Water Center.  “The bill will ensure that new communities will not be permitted to rely on unsustainable water supplies, such as hauled or bottled water.”

The Human Right to Water law says it is “the right of every human being to have safe, clean, affordable water adequate for human consumption, cooking and sanitation.”

The Community Water Center and the Environmental Justice Coalition for Water released a report last month titled “Are we Providing Our Kids With Safe Drinking Water?” The report found that 1,600 California schools between 2003 and 2014 violated drinking water standards. It recommended the state ensure safe, robust and resilient community-wide water systems.”

In addition to Community Water Center, SB 1263 is supported by Clean Water Action, Sierra Club California, California League of Conservation Voters, Environmental Working Group, Leadership Counsel for Justice and Accountability and Lutheran Office of Public Policy – California.

Senator Wieckowski represents the 10th District, which stretches from southern Alameda County to northeast Santa Clara County.