Did you know clean water is a right in the state of California? It is, along with such rights as freedom of speech, religion and assembly.
It’s been a decade since the Legislature passed Assembly Bill 685. It declared “the established policy of the state that every human being has the right to safe, clean, affordable, and accessible water adequate for human consumption, cooking, and sanitary purposes.”
Senate Bill 200 established the Safe and Affordable Drinking Water Fund in the State Treasury to “to help water systems provide an adequate and affordable supply of safe drinking water in both the near and long terms.” This is crucial because the right to clean, safe water only can be met by spending money on new facilities and patching up old ones.
The fund now is up and running under the control of the California Water Boards. It’s called the Safe and Affordable Funding for Equity and Resilience Program, with the apt acronym SAFER. Equity is needed to make sure the poorest areas also enjoy the same high-quality water as the wealthier areas. Resilience means making sure the water facilities can withstand earthquakes, floods, aging and other hazards.
The State Water Board will be meeting online on October 19 to consider its draft plan for fiscal year 2021-22, which began on July 1. It will take up its 2021 Drinking Water Needs Assessment from April this year.
The document’s Executive Summary maintains, “SB 200 established a set of tools, funding sources and regulatory authorities” to implement SAFER. So that will be a key part of the coming meeting to fulfill the promise of SB 200 and the rights guaranteed in AB 685.
The Assessment document also includes solutions for the Board to consider. Among these are “storage tanks, new wells, well replacement, upgraded electrical, added backup power, replacement of distribution system, additional meters and land acquisition.”
As part of guaranteeing clean and safe water for all, the Board will take up “Significant Deficiencies.” These include defects in the design, operation, maintenance, treatment, storage or distribution “that U.S. EPA determines to be causing or have the potential for causing the introduction of contamination into the water delivered to consumers.”
The Board also is advancing innovative new solutions under two main funding categories:
Of the Golden State’s 10 desal plants, the largest is Poseidon Water’s Carlsbad Desalination Plant. For half a decade it has been pumping out 10 percent of San Diego County’s water, enough for 400,000 homes.
Soon Poseidon will finish constructing a sister plant in Huntington Beach. It will produce roughly the same amount of H20 as the Carlsbad facility.
The Huntington Beach facility has been invited by the U.S. EPA to apply for up to $644 million in funding under the Water Infrastructure Finance and Innovation Act. From 2019 to today, the funding has received bipartisan support and is endorsed by President Biden’s EPA.
Desalination has the great advantage that it isn’t affected by droughts. There’s always plenty of water right next door in the Pacific Ocean. Desal really does “make the desert bloom” – and quench the thirst of Californians.
Water is a right guaranteed by law. And desalination now is a crucial part of making sure that right is enjoyed by all.
“Desalination must be included in any discussion of future water sources for Orange County."
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