Newsom signs the SB 403 bill on proactive water solutions
Among the signatures was SB 403, drafted by Senate Majority Whip Lena Gonzalez to, among other revisions, equip water districts and state government with the tools to take proactive steps to consolidate water supply systems serving disadvantaged communities towards a more reliable water supply.
A prime example of the woes of the previous water law is the two-road town of Tooleville, just outside of Exeter, which has suffered from unsafe drinking water for the past two decades. SB 88, the old Consolidation Act, dictated that a system had to systematically fail to provide an adequate supply of potable water before the state could take action. The unincorporated area hovered above and just below maximum contaminant levels (MCLs) for nitrates from agricultural fertilizers and septic systems, coliform bacteria from low water pressure and leaky pipes and the cancerous heavy metal hexavalent chromium (chrom-6) for years.
To Tooleville’s dismay, in 2017, the chrom-6 regulation in California was overturned by the Sacramento County Superior Court after the California State Water Board was sued by the California Manufacturers and Technology Association and the Solano County Taxpayers Association. for starting the regulation without completing the economic feasibility studies. This put a damper on Tooleville’s ability to claim “consistent failure” as the most consistently contaminant on MCL in recent years was no longer regulated due to a technical error on the part of the state.
It wasn’t until last August, when one of Tooleville’s two domestic wells stopped producing water, plunging the community into an immediate emergency, that the state turned it on. and issued an order giving Tooleville and Exeter six months to chop a consolidation before it becomes mandatory with much less cooperation.
Blanca Escobedo, regional policy manager for Tulare County at Leadership Counsel, an advocacy organization that helps underprivileged communities like Tooleville with legal advice and negotiation strategies, said SB 403 is a welcome spectacle for communities, some of which had to wait a generation to gain access. to a clean and reliable water supply.
“Yes [the state] just waiting for something to happen, it’s really bad planning from local and state agencies too, because it’s expensive, for one. Sometimes you have to provide bottled water, like the way Tooleville gets bottled water every two weeks, and you have to install emergency water tanks, and things like that, ”he said. said Escobedo. “We thought [SB 403] Would reduce a lot of time and stress.
Escobedo said that while Tooleville was certainly an inspiration for the bill, Leadership Counsel worked with Senator Lena Gonzalez, who serves the Southeastern Los Angeles and Long Beach areas, despite the differences in communities they serve, as the bill covers a variety of threats to at-risk systems.
“Supply and contamination are sort of the main problems we see in the central valley, but also many small water supply systems do not have the [capital] to repair their infrastructure, ”Escobedo said. “For example, if a well fails, not only because it dries up, but if a pump fails, or something like that, it can be very expensive. There are a lot of communities that cannot afford it because they cannot afford to pass this cost on to their taxpayers.