Alert: Urge Governor to Support Human Right to Water

September 3, 2009 § 1 Comment

Urge the Governor to Support AB 1242 today!

Urge the Governor to Support AB 1242 today! (image: Wikimedia Creative Commons)

There’s a bill working its way through state goverment that would codify a human right to water for all Californians. Specifically, Assembly Bill 1242 would make it state policy that all California residents have a right to clean, affordable, and accessible drinking water.

AB 1242 was introduced by State Assemblymember Ira Ruskin from the Palo Alto area. The bill has been passed by the state assembly and is expected to pass the state senate shortly. At that point it need  governor Arnold Schwarzenegger’s approval to become law.

The good folks at the Environmental Justice Coalition for Water are requesting that folks write to (or call) Governor Schwarzenegger to press him to sign the bill. Letters should go in this week or next. Letters can be faxed to the governor at 916-558-3160; to call the governor, dial 916-445-2841 . Another alternative is to email the governor via his website.

After the jump is a sample support letter, and the text of EJCW’s AB 1242 fact sheet.

Sample Letter:

Honorable Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger
State Capital Building
Sacramento, CA 95814

RE: Support AB 1242 (Ruskin-Jones)

Dear Governor Schwarzenegger:

I write to you to convey my support for AB 1242 and the human right to water. 

Access to clean, safe and affordable water is a fundamental human right essential to our health, the environment and the economy. It is unconscionable that in a state as wealthy as California, families have no choice but to serve their families contaminated water.

AB 1242 will make it clear to all state agencies that have any relevant authority that they have a responsibility to work together to ensure that everyone has access to safe, affordable water.

Please help ensure that someday, every Californian will be able to have access to clean, safe and affordable water. Please sign AB 1242.

Sincerely,

[name]

Here’s the text of EJCW’s AB 1242 Fact Sheet:

AB 1242 [RUSKIN] –THE HUMAN RIGHT TO WATER
 
IN BRIEF

More than 150,000 California residents lack safe water for drinking, bathing, and washing dishes. Even more have water service disconnected because they cannot afford to pay their water bill. This legislation will establish the right of every human to have access to clean water for basic human needs as a State policy and instruct State agencies to conform their practices and programs to this policy.

THE ISSUE

More than 11.5 million Californians rely on water suppliers that faced at least one violation of State Drinking Water Standards. As many as 8.5 million of us rely on supplies that experienced more than five exceedences in a single year. In far too many communities, whose sole water supply is contaminated, families unable to afford treatment are often left entirely without safe water. The Central Valley and Central Coast regions, where more than 90% of the communities rely solely on groundwater, are at particular risk.

In addition to public health threats, Californians are faced with rising water bills to treat contamination and upgrade old infrastructure, which if neglected could even offset the benefits of treatment. California does not have a universal statewide lifeline water rate or allocation – similar to our lifeline rates for energy and phone service – so when costs become excessive, families cannot pay their bills and, thereby, they risk losing water service entirely.

EXISTING LAW

Existing Public Utilities Code Section 739.8 establishes “access to an adequate supply of healthful water [as] a basic necessity of human life, and shall be made available to all residents of California at an affordable cost.” This statute applies to all water providers regulated by the California Public Utilities Commission. In addition, section 116270 (a) of California Health and Safety Code reads: “Every citizen of California has the right to pure and safe drinking water.”

Dozens of state agencies have some regulatory authority over potable water availability and quality including the Department of Public Health, the State Water Resources Control Board, and the Department of Water Resources.  Unfortunately, even with existing statutes in place, many of the relevant agencies are not included in implementation. AB 1242 makes it clear that all relevant state agencies should prioritize implementation of this policy.

FIRST STEP SOLUTION

AB 1242 creates a policy of the State that includes all State agencies, in addition to those agencies regulated by the PUC and Health and Safety Codes, that share responsibility for the quality and supply of potable water.  By doing so we ensure that all agencies appreciate their role in ensuring that every person has access to clean, affordable water.

Adding a provision to the Water Code explicitly stating that access to an amount of clean water necessary for basic human needs is a “right” of every Californian and instructing State agencies, dealing with water resources, to conform their programs and practices to this policy will pave the way to ensure that every Californian will someday be able to confidently fill a glass of water from their tap and serve it to their families.

LONGER TERM SOLUTIONBy setting a clear priority on providing clean affordable water for basic human needs, the Legislature will unmistakably focus State efforts on closing the existing gap that persists between protecting drinking water and ensuring all residents have a sufficient supply of clean water so as to sustain healthy living.
 In the longer term, this bill will help identify and generate solutions to hurdles that frustrate the provision of clean drinking water to all people, including:

• Lack of long-term monitoring of drinking water quality.

• Apparent conflict between the State’s interest in ensuring public health and the view that ground water is a local issue.

• Inadequate understanding of the trade-offs and integration in decisions regarding ground water and surface water.

• Gaps in regulating the quality of ground water used largely for drinking and other personal uses.

• Inability of some communities to be self-sufficient in providing clean water due to inadequate financial resources and inappropriate allocation of costs.

• Need to ensure maximum value from the allocation and use of existing and future funding.

• Inappropriate allocation of costs to ensure a reliable supply of clean drinking water to meet everyone’s basic health needs.

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§ One Response to Alert: Urge Governor to Support Human Right to Water

  • Joe Linton says:

    I received this update today from Debbie Davis of the Environmental Justice Coalition for Water:

    Sadly, AB 1242 (Ruskin) Human Right to Water, a bill that originated in Water Summit, was amongst the vetoed bills. You can read the Governor’s veto message at:

    http://gov.ca.gov/pdf/press/2009bills/AB1242_Ruskin_Veto_Message.pdf

    On the positive side, the efforts around AB 1242 have elevated issues around access to safe, affordable water and the Governor signed the other 4 water justice bills on his desk. Those include AB 626, AB 890, AB 1079, and AB 1438.

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