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Another perspective on regulating drinking water

In our last newsletter, we commented on AB 145, legislation that would move the state’s drinking water program from the Department of Public Health to the State Water Resources Control Board. We were critical of the idea because we’ve seen how much trouble the Water Board has regulating water quality in the Delta.

But Jennifer Clary of Clean Water Action, which works to help communities access safe drinking water, explains why this may be something the Water Board can do better than Public Health. According to Clary, “We and others who do this work have a history of frustration with the Drinking Water Program in the Department of Public Health. To name two problems:

  • The Department made headlines in April when the US EPA issued a notice of violation because of their failure to expend $455 million in funding that was supposed to be spent on improving drinking water infrastructure. Meanwhile, dozens, if not hundreds, of small water systems continue to serve drinking water that doesn’t meet basic water quality standards.
  • The Legislative Analyst’s office reports that the Department takes, on average, at least a year longer than other state agency to generate and approve regulations. New recycled water projects in southern California that would reduce reliance on the Delta cannot move forward because the Department has delayed needed regulations for a decade.

“On the other hand, the State Water Board has generated two reports in the past year identifying communities with drinking water contamination; has a well-functioning funding program for wastewater infrastructure; and is guided by a public board that we can go to for action if we have a problem with staff. To those of us who work to help communities struggling to obtain safe and affordable drinking water, they’re a winning organization. That’s why we are sponsoring AB145, which would combine the state’s drinking water and water quality protection agencies under one umbrella at the State Water Board.”

We appreciate Clary sorting out for us the details about how best to get clean drinking water to all Californians.

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