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September 19, 2017

California’s Safe and Affordable Drinking Water Legislation Tabled until January

The final days of California’s legislative session ended last week with a flurry of activity. High on the list of priorities for leadership included housing, the gas tax, cap-and-trade and a park bond, all of which required a 2/3rds vote for passage. These bills left little room to move other legislation, including SB 623, a Western Growers-supported bill that would create the Safe and Affordable Drinking Water Fund to secure access to safe drinking water for all Californians.      

The bill, funded through a modest fee on agricultural, urban and industrial water users, helps ensure necessary upgrades to infrastructure and financial assistance for the operation and maintenance of drinking water systems in communities that are in need of safe, clean drinking water.

For farmers, SB 623 protects agricultural operations from being subjected to enforcement actions for exceeding nitrate levels in groundwater, provided farmers meet existing permit requirements. All water users – agricultural, urban and industrial – would contribute by paying modest fees into the Safe and Affordable Drinking Water Fund which would provide accessible, clean drinking water where contamination has made water unsafe, and allow farmers to continue farming. 

Since the Legislature did not pass the bill, SB 623 has become a “two-year” bill and will be considered when the Legislature convenes in January. 

Western Growers will continue to work diligently over the fall and winter to garner support for the measure in an effort to move the bill early next year.

For more information, contact Gail Delihant at (916) 446-1435.