The fight for clean, safe drinking water in California has been a frustrating battle.
For years, rural and urban communities have gone without access to safe drinking water, affecting more than 2 million Californians.
For the past three years, I have introduced numerous bills to help California's drinking water problems. These bills would help communities' access money and provide clean water infrastructure. The Legislature worked with the Brown administration recently, through the budget, to provide seven additional California Department of Public Health positions focused exclusively on small communities and providing them with clean water.
This year, I introduced Assembly Bill 145 Streamlining Drinking Water Oversight. This bill is not only about technical assistance or consolidating water systems. It also would create a consolidated and comprehensive strategy to ensure safe drinking water for all California residents by moving all drinking water programs from the Department of Public Health to the State Water Resources Control Board.
Currently, Public Health Department and the water board oversee our state's water quality and are responsible for ensuring the state's waters are clean and safe. This relationship has led to a lack of policy integration and missed opportunities.
A Sacramento Bee editorial ("Bill distracts from larger task of clean water"; Aug. 8) stated critics of the bill said that "just changing the agency that dispenses the funds won't get the job done."
The Legislative Analyst's Office, the state's nonpartisan fiscal and policy analyst, has concluded that moving the drinking water program to the water board has many long-term advantages including increased transparency and greater public participation, policy integration with other water issues and increased administrative capacity.
Shifting oversight to the water board is only one component of a larger strategy that aims to be more efficient and effective at regulating water by putting all of our water regulatory programs under one agency.
Specifically, the reorganization is expected to elevate the drinking water issue, utilize the water board's expertise in managing clean water, expedite improvements within the system, leverage funding from multiple sources quickly and strategically, and reduce duplication for small communities facing both water and wastewater challenges.
In other words, think of it like cooking dinner at home. You can still make a meal even if the refrigerator is in the living room and the oven is in the kitchen. But it would be much more efficient and effective to have all tools in the same room. That's what AB 145 aims to do.
It is my job to help find solutions for our communities' problems not create more.
Henry T. PereaANOTHER VIEW Henry T. Perea, D-Fresno, represents the 31st District in the California Assembly.