Contaminated tap water in California at center of debate between lawmakers

Bay Area

The simple, necessary part of everyday life is the center of a complicated conversation between California lawmakers. 

Assemblymember Eduardo Garcia, D-Coachella, said, “We have a water problem in California, whether it be an infrastructure problem or for that matter, a direct public health problem pertaining to not having clean water.” 

Researchers from the environmental advocacy group Environmental Working Group found that drinking tap water in California could increase the risk of cancer.

Water systems with the highest risk serve smaller communities, according to the study.

Lawmakers have said fixing contaminated water systems is costly but ongoing maintenance will be even more expensive.

They say a constant funding stream is necessary. 

Assemblyman Devon Mathis, R-Visalia, proposes using money from the general fund. 

“For generations, we’ve heard legislators, Governors talk about the need to do something with water in our state. With ACA 3 we had that opportunity,” Mathis said. 

His measure was rejected in committee but will be up for reconsideration.

Some Democrats are concerned that taking money from the general fund would take away from other priorities.

Assemblyman Marc Levine, D-San Rafael said, “The dedication of a percent of this budget is not just limiting what we do with the general fund, it is directing us to cut childcare, education, healthcare, state parks, the list goes on as soon as the budget goes down and take a dip in the next recession.”

Meanwhile, Governor Newsom has proposed a competing measure that would implement a tax of fee on water customers to build up a safe drinking water fund for the state. 

Newsom recently signed an executive order directing state agencies to identify actions California needs to take to ensure safe and resilient water supplies. 

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