Soapbox

Clean water bill will resolve public health crisis

Water bottles line the entrance to Foothill Intermediate School in Loma Rica, where lead in drinking water frequently rises to unhealthy levels.
Water bottles line the entrance to Foothill Intermediate School in Loma Rica, where lead in drinking water frequently rises to unhealthy levels. AP

More than one million Californians receive unsafe tap water at home and in schools and have to live with the fear that arsenic, nitrates or lead is slowly poisoning them. They spend more than 10 percent of their income to buy water and still pay high rates for tap water they can’t drink.

 
Opinion

That’s why they support a solution that looks nothing like what Terry Tamminen describes (“Ag polluters trying to hijack clean water bill,” Viewpoints, May 16).

For the first time in decades, California has the opportunity to resolve this public health crisis. Senate Bill 623 is an ambitious, bipartisan effort that is driven by the same communities that pushed for the passage of the human right to water, along with more than 130 groups across the political spectrum.

Camille Pannu (2)
Camille Pannu

Most importantly, the low-income communities I work with have an intimate understanding of the dangers they face, and they understand how the Safe and Affordable Drinking Water Fund will improve their daily lives. Our law clinic independently analyzed the bill, and here’s what we found.

Agricultural participants in the fund do not get a free pass. In addition to paying into the fund, they must comply with all current and future water quality regulations. Their payments will help water suppliers with expensive infrastructure upgrades to deal with past pollution. Now, hundreds of systems are unable to provide safe water because their customers cannot afford necessary treatment. This fund would fix that.

California’s drinking water crisis affects 10 times more people than the lead contamination in Flint, Mich., and it falls hardest on the most vulnerable Californians. We pride ourselves on our ingenuity, environmental leadership and economic growth, but on drinking water we have fallen too short for too long. SB 623 will finally deliver on our promise of clean and affordable water for all.

Camille Pannu directs the Aoki Water Justice Clinic at UC Davis School of Law. She can be contacted at cpannu@ucdavis.edu.

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