Water plays a role in every aspect of our lives – we drink it, bathe in it, and clean with it. Given its importance, the State of California established the “human right to water” in 2013, affirming a state priority to create universal access to safe, clean, and affordable water. This statement of values instilled the critical component water plays in our lives and the urgency of preserving access to water for generations to come.
Yet despite this groundbreaking commitment, communities throughout the state – from rural Central Valley to urban Los Angeles – do not have access to clean water coming out of the tap.
The city of Maywood, for instance, is a community of 27,000 residents in the district Assembymemeber Rendon represents. Maywood has long been plagued by water that comes out of the tap yellow or brown and reeking with the smell of rotten eggs. But due to its poor and heavily immigrant population, Maywood’s residents have often been left voiceless regarding decisions about their public services.
Thanks to local activists collaborating with elected officials, legislation in 2013 reformed the water governance structures in Maywood, forcing them to clean up the city’s water supply and be more accountable to residents.
Victories like Maywood continue to move the clean water movement forward, but there are still too many families who receive water with unsafe levels of contaminants. Many of these individuals live in areas with limited economic resources to improve the quality of their water.
Proposition 1, the state water bond that voters approved in 2014, lends a hand to these areas by providing $145 million in funding to assist communities of need access the resources – particularly the knowledge base – to develop water infrastructure. Assemblymember Rendon has authored two bills that will appropriate these funds to where they are needed the most.
According to the Department of Public Health, public drinking water systems deliver water with unsafe levels of contaminants to 1.5 million Californians, many of whom live in areas with limited economic resources to improve the quality of their water.
State agencies can provide funding to assist communities improve their drinking water supply. However, these public funds require the applicant to have the technical knowledge to construct and operate the infrastructure, which small, disadvantaged communities often lack.
Assembly Bill 615 creates the Center for Community Water Projects, a one-stop shop that provides comprehensive technical assistance for disadvantaged communities to design and build clean and sustainable water projects.
Similar challenges exist in California’s public schools, which according to recent studies have contaminated water supplies due to limited funding for retrofits. However, school districts are often unaware of the many state and federal funding streams available to them for infrastructure needs.
To bridge this information gap, Assembly Bill 496 charges the Department of Education to develop a one-stop shop for school districts to find resources and funding for water quality and facilities improvements.