New polling numbers confirm the public’s high level of concern about drinking water quality and support for safe drinking water in California.
The results of the poll conducted by Fairbank, Maslin, Maullin, Metz and Associates, and commissioned by the Water Foundation, found that nearly four in five Californians express concern about current water quality problems in the state. And 80 percent believe water agencies are responsible for ensuring safe drinking water for California communities.
But despite strong public awareness and concern we have failed to address this most tragic and unacceptable water problem: Upward of 1 million Californians do not have access to safe drinking water. Even worse, there are nearly 300,000 Californians who have been without safe drinking water for decades.
During the depth of the recent drought, state and national media reported on several rural communities with wells that ran dry, leaving people without access to running water. What was less well understood was that many of those wells served contaminated water for years before they went dry. And hundreds more communities still rely on contaminated groundwater as their primary source of water.
The fact that in the wealthiest state in the nation we have fellow citizens without safe drinking water is outrageous and a disgrace. Every Californian should have access to safe, affordable drinking water and water users must be a part of the solution.
Senate Bill 623 has been introduced in the state legislature to create a safe and affordable drinking water fund that would help eliminate this problem. Part of that fund would come from a small monthly fee of less than $1 on all residential water bills. The recent polling shows that 69 percent of the public supports paying an additional $1 per month to assure safe drinking water for everyone.
During the first hearing of the bill, hundreds of residents brought bottles of contaminated water up to Sacramento and asked for their elected representatives to support a safe drinking water fund or drink the water that comes out of their taps – yet, many in the water community stood in opposition, without offering any real alternative solutions.
As the former director of California’s Department of Water Resources, I am proud of the water sector’s many accomplishments and decades of innovation that have contributed to the economic growth and great prosperity of this state. The water community has done wonderful things to ensure reliable water supplies, but they got it wrong on this one. It is time to get back on the right side of history and ensure everyone has access to safe water. Today, I call on water community leaders to stand up in support of the safe and affordable drinking water fund.
The views expressed in this article belong to the author and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of Water Deeply.