Assemblymember Dodd’s Low-Income Water Rate Assistance Bill Heads to Governor

Thursday, September 10, 2015

SACRAMENTO, CA – Assemblymember Bill Dodd’s (D-Napa) low-income water rate assistance bill passed the state legislature with bipartisan support. The bill, Assembly Bill 401, calls on the State Water Resources Control Board to create a plan for establishing the state’s first statewide water rate assistance program for low-income residents in California. The bill now heads to Governor Jerry Brown who has one month to sign the legislation.

“The time has come to develop a comprehensive program to help relieve the financial burden on seniors and low-income families dealing with significant costs of water,” Assemblymember Bill Dodd said. “I’d like to thank Senator Mike McGuire for his help championing this bill in the Senate.”

Over time, water districts across California have increased billing rates for water service to levels that can put real financial strain on residents. In some cases water rates have jumped over 300 percent in less than a decade. Communities in Dodd’s district, such as the Lake County community of Lucerne, have been particularly impacted. The median income in Lucerne is just half of the state average, yet residential ratepayers average nearly $1,300 annually for water service, and many pay even more.

“As this severe drought continues, we need to ensure that we have an efficient, sustainable, and equitable water system in California,” said Assemblymember Dodd. “This bill is one piece of that broader puzzle, and I will continue to work for smart water policy in Sacramento.”

While current California law requires gas and electric companies to provide discounted rates for low-income rate payers, there is currently no similar requirement for water providers. A number of the larger water utilities in California do have some form of rate assistance program, but the lack of a statewide standard causes significant financial hardships for many people, especially seniors.

AB 401 requires the state water board to develop a plan for the funding and implementation of a low-income water rate assistance program by 2018. The passage of this bill follows several other pieces of legislation by Assemblymember Dodd sent to the Governor this week, including legislation to promote gender pay equity (AB 1354) and help seniors obtain better access to state services (AB 664).

Assemblymember Bill Dodd represents the 4th Assembly District, which includes all or portions of Yolo, Napa, Sonoma, Lake, Solano, and Colusa Counties. .