Water Tax

Camrosa and other water agencies across the state advocated hard against the water tax last year, defeating two bills in the Senate and a state budget “trailer bill,” and we plan to do so again.  We don’t  believe it’s fair for our ratepayers to foot the bill for projects in other areas of the state.

Governor Gavin Newsom has made “safe and affordable drinking water” a banner issue of his new administration, including in his first budget proposal a Safe and Affordable Drinking Water Fund. Funding will likely come from a tax on residential water bills.

Several legislators have introduced bills pertaining to this issue. Here’s a summary, along with Camrosa’s positions on them:

ACA 3 (Mathis, Bloom)

Requires two percent of the state budget be set aside for water projects and for payments on state water bonds.

AB 134 (Bloom)

Requires an analysis every five years of the effectiveness of a state Safe Drinking Water Fund, if established.

AB 217 (Garcia/Bloom)-OPPOSE

Establishes the Safe and Affordable Drinking Water Fund in the State Treasury, funded by fees on fertilizer, milk manufacturers, and confined animal facility operators. Also includes a “trust” component like that outlined in SB 669, plus a 50-cent per connection water tax.

AB 1381 (Salas)

Requires the State Water Board (SWB) to identify public water systems that consistently fail to deliver water that meets all standards under the California Safe Drinking Water Act. Also requires SWB to include information on areas that have limited access and / or ability to pay for safe and affordable drinking water, plus an evaluation of non-public water systems’ adequacy and reliability.

SB 200 (Monning)

Establishes the Safe and Affordable Drinking Water Fund in the State Treasury, but does not identify a funding source. Also requires mapping of aquifers that are at high risk of containing contaminants.

 SB 414 (Caballero) – SUPPORT

Creates the Small System Water Authority Act of 2019, proposing to merge non-compliant water systems into a larger public water system to improve economies of scale, streamline managerial functions, and enhance financial capacity. Last year, Governor Brown vetoed a similar bill (AB 2050), a bill that Camrosa supported.

SB 669 (Caballero) – SUPPORT

Proposes to create a state trust that is funded by a portion of the state’s $21 billion budget surplus.  It aims to bring struggling systems into self-sufficiency within ten years, rather than providing an indefinite subsidy to failing agencies.

You can read Camrosa’s support letter of SB 669 here. Below is testimony by Camrosa’s Water Resource Manager, Ian Prichard, at the Senate Budget Subcommittee hearing in Sacramento on March 21, 2019.

Budget Trailer Bill Proposal on Drinking Water Tax
California State Senate Budget Subcommittee #2
March 21, 2019


Chair Wieckowski and members of the committee:

My name is Ian Prichard and I’m the Water Resource Manager at Camrosa Water District in Ventura County.

In his State of the State speech, Governor Newsom called the fact that hundreds of thousands of Californians don’t have regular access to clean water a “moral disgrace and medical emergency.” Joaquin Esquivel, Chair of the State Water Resources Control Board, has said it’s “the preeminent issue of our time” and called solving the problem “a moral imperative.”

We don’t have an updated, comprehensive needs assessment from the state, but whether it’s 264 agencies that are struggling or 329; whether it’s 300,000 people who are affected, or 800,000 or a million, we all agree it’s a problem.

It’s also a limited problem. A discrete problem set with doable solutions.

A Water Tax isn’t necessary to solve it and could lend itself to indefinitely propping up failing systems.

The Trust proposed by SB 669, on the other hand, aims to provide a resolution to this problem by solving the underlying problems facing struggling systems and helping them achieve self-sufficiency. There’s a ten-year funding goal built into the bill that incentivizes quickly implementing these resolutions.

SB 669 acknowledges the problem that the governor and key leadership across the state have said they consider an acute and urgent need. It’s an optimistic bill, and Camrosa Water District urges the Legislature to embrace that optimism and adopt a funding strategy that’s focused on resolution.

Thank you.