Senate Passes Sen. Dodd’s Water Access & Equity Bill
SACRAMENTO – The state Senate today approved legislation from Sen. Bill Dodd, D-Napa, to help hundreds of thousands of Californians who have fallen behind on their water bills and are at risk of being disconnected from water service.
“Rising water rates coupled with pandemic job losses threaten to cut off many California families from an essential service – water,” Sen. Dodd said. “No one should be denied access, regardless of their income level or economic status. Today’s vote is a step toward ensuring low-income customers get the help they need to keep the tap open. I thank my Senate colleagues for supporting this measure.”
Sen. Dodd’s legislation comes as the State Water Resources Control Board heard results of a survey that found water debt in California climbed to about $1 billion. The survey estimated 12% of California households are behind on their water bills with an average debt of $500 per household. Many of those people are on the brink of service disconnection.
Senate Bill 222 would prevent shutoffs by establishing a water assistance fund for low-income rate payers experiencing economic hardship. It would build on Sen. Dodd’s earlier legislation. His Low-Income Water Rate Assistance Act, or Assembly Bill 401, commissioned a study for how to address affordability. It resulted in recommendations including this new fund. He also wrote The Water Shutoff Protection Act, or SB 998, which provided significant safeguards against water disconnections.
SB 222 was approved by the full Senate by a 31 to 5 bipartisan vote. It is backed by a coalition of water advocates including the Community Water Center, Clean Water Action and the Leadership Counsel for Justice and Accountability.
“Millions of Californians are drowning in water debt,” said Susana De Anda, executive director and co-founder of Community Water Center. “SB 222 would be a lifeline for low-income families who are struggling to afford their water bills. Water affordability has been a longstanding issue for our communities long before COVID-19, and will persist long after the pandemic, unless we establish a statewide water affordability program for all Californians. We're proud to work alongside Sen. Dodd and our community partners on moving this critical legislation forward and advancing the human right to water.”
“Today’s vote was a big step towards achieving affordability for all California families,” said Jennifer Clary, California director for Clean Water Action. “We appreciate Senator Dodd’s long-term and consistent leadership on this issue, and look forward to working with him to pass this bill this year.”
Senator Bill Dodd represents the 3rd Senate District, which includes all or portions of Napa, Solano, Yolo, Sonoma, Contra Costa, and Sacramento counties. You can learn more about the district and Senator Dodd at www.sen.ca.gov/dodd.