Assembly Passes Sen. Dodd’s Water Access & Equity Bill
SACRAMENTO – With hundreds of thousands of Californians falling behind on their water bills, the state Assembly today approved legislation from Sen. Bill Dodd, D-Napa, to establish a water utility assistance fund to prevent low-income families from losing access to this essential 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 Assembly 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 with overwhelming Assembly support. It heads to Gov. Gavin Newsom for a signature following Senate concurrence vote.
“Today, we’re making history by creating a statewide low-income water rate assistance program,” Susana De Anda, executive director and co-founder of Community Water Center. “For the first time our hardworking families will have access to critical support that will make their water bills affordable. This program brings us one step closer to achieving the Human Right to Water in California.”
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.