BAKERSFIELD, Calif. - California Governor Jerry Brown signed a bill written by Bakersfield Assemblymember Rudy Salas which authorized the expansion of state safe drinking water funds for those in disadvantaged communities.
SACRAMENTO – Governor Jerry Brown has signed Assembly Bill (AB) 560, authored by Assemblymember Rudy Salas (D-Bakersfield), authorizing the State Water Resources Control Board (State Water Board) to expand the eligibility for the state’s safe drinking water funds to severely disadvantaged communities (SDCs) who need the funding for water projects. “I applaud the governor’s signing of AB 560, which is going to provide more flexibility and expand access for communities that need funding from the state to bring safe, clean drinking water to their residents,” said Assemblymember Rudy Salas. “We need to invest in water infrastructure for our communities that continue to struggle to have access to clean water.” Communities in the Central Valley have the highest rate of drinking water contamination. The City of Arvin, for example, has struggled with severe drinking water contamination for a least a decade and requires very costly projects to return to compliance with drinking water standards, but its population size is above the population threshold to qualify for financial assistance at 21,000 people. Currently, only water systems whose service areas qualify as SDCs and are smaller than 10,000 residents are eligible for grants, principal forgiveness, or zero percent financing. This limitation can exclude some larger water systems that are also struggling to provide safe water at rates their customers can afford. “Our public water systems are doing all they can to provide safe reliable drinking water and we should be doing everything we can to make sure costs are not passed onto California families,” said Mayor Jose Gurrola Jr., City of Arvin. “We appreciate the vision and leadership of Assemblymember Salas and Governor Brown in signing AB 560 to make sure that families in communities like Arvin have access to clean and affordable water.” AB 560 authorizes the State Water Board to prioritize funding for water systems that serve SDCs on a discretionary, case-by-case basis regardless of the community’s population size, if the water system can demonstrate that paying back a safe drinking water loan would result in an increase in a household water bill to unaffordable rates. The bill increases the types of financial assistance larger SDCs can access through the state’s safe drinking water fund to help with drinking water affordability. According to the State Water Board, nearly 700 public water systems, which serve nearly 21 million people, rely on contaminated groundwater as a primary source of drinking water. # # # Assemblymember Salas represents part of the City of Bakersfield, the cities of Arvin, Avenal, Corcoran, Delano, Hanford, Lemoore, McFarland, Shafter, Wasco, and the communities of Armona, Buttonwillow, Home Garden, Kettleman City, Lamont, Lost Hills, Stratford and Weedpatch.