Senator Dodd’s Water Shut-Off Protection Bill Heads to the Governor
SACRAMENTO – Lawmakers on Wednesday approved legislation from Senator Bill Dodd, D-Napa, that would protect low-income families from getting their water service terminated.
“Access to water is a fundamental right of all Californians and we must protect it now and for generations to come,” Senator Dodd said. “We simply cannot cut off water service to poor families just because they have fallen on hard times. This creates a sustainable and equitable delivery system that will protect this vulnerable population including seniors, children and those with illness or disability.”
Senate Bill 998 comes as water prices statewide are skyrocketing and more residents are losing access to water because of unpaid bills. The bill seeks to enact a sweeping slate of consumer protections to ensure that families are given time and options before their water is shut off. It heads next to Gov. Jerry Brown for a signature after passing both the Senate and Assembly.
Statewide, the cost of water grew by more than 66 percent between 2007 and 2015. In Los Angeles the cost of water increased 71 percent between 2010 and 2017, and for San Franciscans it climbed to 127 percent. For many households in poverty, the cost of water is more than 5 percent of household income, which is more than three times the affordability threshold of 1.5 percent. The California Urban Water Agencies, which represents utilities serving the majority of Californians, found that more than one in five of their customers are impacted by water affordability.
Many residents ultimately lose their water service. In 2015, nearly 8,200 residences had their water service interrupted due to unpaid bills in the East Bay Municipal Utility District alone, totaling 2.49 percent of their residential customers. Loss of water service can have dire health and safety consequences for residents. While there are consistent lifeline programs for people having difficulty paying their electric, gas and telephone bills, there is nothing more than a patchwork of local practices across thousands of water providers.
SB 998 requires water providers to have public policies on water shutoffs that provide for deferred payments, alternate payment schedules and an appeals process.
“This bill brings California one step closer to making the human right to water a reality for the low-income residents we represent,” said Alexander Harnden of the Western Center on Law and Poverty. “The bill’s common-sense reforms provide important protections for the most vulnerable Californians, for whom a water shutoff can have drastic impacts on everything from physical and mental health to job and housing security. We strongly support SB 998 and thank Senator Dodd for authoring this important measure.”
Senator Bill Dodd represents California’s 3rd Senate District, which includes all or portions of Solano, Napa, Sonoma, Yolo, Sacramento, and Contra Costa counties. You can learn more about Senator Dodd at www.sen.ca.gov/dodd