Lack of Access to Safe and Affordable Drinking Water Exacerbated by Veto

For immediate release:

Bill by Assemblymember Quirk would have provided critical resources for small drinking water systems

SACRAMENTO – Small water systems in California lack the resources they need to ensure safe and affordable drinking water for all residents. However, AB 2296, a bill authored by Assemblymember Bill Quirk (D-Hayward), which would have resolved the challenge of funding for small public water systems by strengthening the existing network of local health officers and encouraging continued oversight was vetoed today.

“The accessibility of safe and clean drinking water, especially for our disadvantaged and rural communities, has never been more important. These small water systems were struggling financially before COVID-19, and our current public health crisis has exacerbated the need for action. This bill would have provided critical funding stabilization for these systems at a time when they need help the most,” explained Assemblymember Quirk.

Counties with local oversight of small public drinking water systems are known as Local Primacy Agency (LPA) counties, and account for over half of the state’s public drinking water systems. These small systems often require more resources per consumer to ensure compliance with state drinking water requirements, but also generate less fee revenue. Raising fees can be challenging, especially for systems serving disadvantaged communities. “Small systems are responsible for the bulk of the state’s water quality violations, but also lack the technical and financial resources they need to resolve issues,” said Assemblymember Quirk.

This bill would have allowed LPA counties to opt-in to a funding stabilization program administered by the State Water Resources Control Board to fund the regulatory oversight of these small systems. 

“AB 2296 would have helped to ensure that all Californians who rely on public drinking water systems – regardless of whether they live in counties whose system oversight is through the state or delegated to the county – can be assured of safe, adequate drinking water,” says Justin Malan, Executive Director of the California Association of Environmental Health Administrators. “This measure had become even more important since the outbreak of COVID-19 because of the strain this pandemic has placed on all local environmental health programs and the urgent need to shore up local public environmental health resources across the board.”

“Action at the state level is imperative to allow these local programs to continue to operate and provide safe drinking water,” said Assemblymember Quirk. “We have already seen seven counties relinquish their oversight authority back to the state since 2007, and I fear without this bill, many other counties will follow suit. Water is California’s most precious resource, and I will continue to pursue policies that will help to fulfill the state’s promise of safe, clean, affordable, and accessible water for all.”