Governor Signs Senator Dodd’s Drinking Water Access Law
SACRAMENTO – Gov. Brown signed legislation Friday from Sen. Bill Dodd, D-Napa, that will prevent low-income families from getting their water service terminated.
“Access to water is a fundamental right of all Californians. I thank Gov. Brown for helping to protect it now and for future generations,” Sen. Dodd said. “This new law creates a sustainable and equitable delivery system that will protect vulnerable people 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 law enacts a slate of consumer protections to ensure that families are given time and options before their water is shut off. Among its requirements are that water providers adopt policies for deferred payments, alternate payment schedules and an appeals process.
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. That 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 has been nothing more than a patchwork of local practices across thousands of water providers.
“SB 998 contains critical protections and ensures our most vulnerable residents will not be denied access to water without an opportunity to contest that action and a path to restoring water service,” said Alexander Harnden of the Western Center on Law and Poverty.
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.