First-ever water tax proposed to tackle unsafe drinking water in California
SACRAMENTO — For the first time Californians would pay a tax on drinking water — 95 cents per month — under legislation aimed at fixing hundreds of public water systems with unsafe tap water.
Senate Bill 623, backed by a strange-bedfellows coalition of the agricultural lobby and environmental groups but opposed by water districts, would generate $2 billion over the next 15 years to clean up contaminated groundwater and improve faulty water systems and wells. The problem is most pervasive in rural areas with agricultural runoff.
“My message is short and direct: We are not Flint, Michigan,” co-author Sen. Robert Hertzberg, D-Van Nuys, said at a Wednesday rally outside the Capitol, where demonstrators held signs reading “Clean water is not a luxury” and “Water is a human right.”
Ironically, many Californians are more aware of the crisis in Flint — where state and local officials in 2015 told residents about lead contamination in the drinking water, after claiming it was safe to drink — than about the water problems in their home state, said the measure’s main author, Sen. Bill Monning, D-Monterey. He called this “a pivotal time in our state’s history to do the right thing.”