California State Water Resources Control Board’s mission is to “preserve, enhance, and restore the quality of California’s water resources and drinking water for the protection of the environment, public health, and all beneficial uses, and to ensure proper water resource allocation and efficient use, for the benefit of present and future generations.” The five-member Board is authorized to implement the federal Clean Water Act. The Water Boards are housed within state government and are part of the California Environmental Protection Agency (CalEPA). The Division of Drinking Water (DDW) regulates public drinking water systems. “The State Water Board works in coordination with the nine Regional Water Boards to preserve, protect, enhance, and restore water quality. The State Water Board sets statewide water quality standards, issues statewide general permits, conducts statewide surface and groundwater monitoring and assessment, and issues orders for cleaning up contaminated sites.” 


Human Right to Water, Water Code Section 106.3 (Assembly Bill 685)


This bill declares that it is the established policy of the state that “every human being has the right to safe, clean, affordable, and accessible water adequate for human consumption, cooking, and sanitary purposes.” Requires all relevant state agencies to consider the policy when revising, adopting, or establishing policies, regulations, and grant criteria.  


Senate Bill No. 88


This bill provided the State Water Resources Control Board the authority to incentivize and mandate consolidation of failing water systems. “Where a public water system, or a state small water system within a disadvantaged community, consistently fails to provide an adequate supply of safe drinking water, the State Water Resources Control Board may order consolidation with a receiving water system as provided… The consolidation may be physical or operational. The State Water Resources Control Board may also order the extension of service to an area that does not have access to an adequate supply of safe drinking water so long as the extension of service is an interim extension of service in preparation for consolidation.” 


Low-Income Water Rate Assistance Act (Assembly Bill 401)


Assembly Bill 401 was added to the Water Code (Section 189.5), and directed the Water Quality Control Board to develop a plan for a statewide Low-Income Water Rate Assistance Program by 2018. The Act directs the Board to develop a plan for the funding and implementation of the Program. Low-income is defined as “a household with income that is equal to or no greater than 200 percent of the federal poverty guideline level.” 


Senate Bill 552


Amends sections 116681 and 116682 and add Section 116686 to the Health and Safety Code, relating to water. The act authorizes the state board to order the extension of service to an area that does not have access to an adequate supply of safe drinking water so long as the extension of service is an interim extension of service in preparation for consolidation. Existing law, for these purposes, defines “disadvantaged community” to mean a disadvantaged community that is in an unincorporated area or is served by a mutual water company. The consolidation may be physical or operational. The act outlines who needs to be informed before, during, and after the process of consolidation, including the public. 


Community Water Systems: Lead User Service Lines (Senate Bill 427)


Expands existing law related to public water systems to also apply to community water systems related to lead service line inventorying. The bill requires that by July 1, 2020, timelines for replacement of known lead user service lines in use in community water systems be submitted to the State Water Resources Board. Requires certain public water systems to provide related findings. Authorizes the application and enforcement of these provisions under the Safe Drinking Water Act. 


Water Shutoff Protection Act (Senate Bill No. 998)


SB 998 outlines the requirements for urban and community water systems to inform customers of delinquent water bills, details contact requirements, and states that if a bill is appealed by a resident, the water system shall not discontinue service while the appeal is pending.  “An urban and community water system shall not discontinue residential service for nonpayment until a payment by a customer has been delinquent for at least 60 days. No less than seven business days before discontinuation of residential service for nonpayment, an urban and community water system shall contact the customer named on the account by telephone or written notice.” Discontinuation of residential service for nonpayment shall not occur if (1) The customer, or a tenant of the customer, submits to the urban and community water system the certification of a primary care provider… that discontinuation of residential service will be life threatening to, or pose a serious threat to the health and safety of, a resident of the premises where residential service is provided. (2) The customer demonstrates that he or she is financially unable to pay for residential service within the normal billing cycle. (3) The customer is willing to enter into an amortization agreement, alternative payment schedule, or a plan for deferred or reduced payment.

The Act applies only to the newly defined “urban and community water systems” which are defined as public water systems that supply water to more than 200 service connections. Compliance of the Act began in 2020 (For those who serve more than 3,000 service connections and any PUC-regulated systems, they must comply with the Act on and after February 1, 2020. Urban and community water systems not regulated by the PUC with less than 3,000 service connections must comply on April 1, 2020). 


Assembly Bill No. 72


AB 72 is an act to amend the State Budget Act of 2018. $5,000,000 of the budget was made available to the State Water Resources Control Board to provide grants or contracts for drinking water testing for lead at licensed child care centers, remediation of lead in plumbing and drinking water fixtures, and technical assistance for licensed child care providers to apply for testing and remediation. 


Senate Bill No. 200


Established the Safe and Affordable Drinking Water Fund in the State Treasury to help water systems provide an adequate and affordable supply of water in both the near and long terms. The State Water Board administers the SADW Fund through its Division of Financial Assistance, the Division of Drinking Water implements the Safe and Affordable Drinking Water Act. The bill, starting in fiscal year 2020-2021, would require 5% of the annual proceeds of the Greenhouse Gas Reduction Fund (up to $130 million) to be deposited into the SADW Fund. Funds will support local assistance to “fund grants, loans, contracts, or services to help water systems provide safe and affordable drinking water.” The bill guarantees funding for 10 years. SB 200 also established an advisory group to aid in meeting the purposes of the fund expenditure plan, with 19 appointed members representing public water systems, technical assistance providers, local agencies, nonprofits, residents from disadvantaged communities, state small water systems, and domestic wells, “the public”. According to the SAFER Policy Implementation Fact Sheet, three metrics will be used to measure the success of the Fund Expenditure Plan. 1) number of communities and schools served with interim sources of safe drinking water, 2) number of communities and schools that have preliminary planning assistance projects completed, and 3) number of communities and schools that have long-term solutions completed.  


Assembly Bill 756 (Act No. 2019-162), Public Water Systems: Perfluoroalkyl Substances


Authorizes the State Water Resources Control Board to order a public water system to monitor for perfluoroalkyl substances and polyfluoroalkyl substances. Requires a community water system or a non-transient noncommunity water system, upon a detection of these substances, to report that detection, cease using the water source, or provide public notification. 


Assembly Bill No. 508


Amends existing Health and Safety Code by modifying the authority of the consolidation or extension of service by a water system, if a disadvantaged community, in whole or in part, is reliant on domestic wells that consistently fail to provide an adequate supply of safe drinking water. Requires the State Water Resources Control Board to hold at least one public meeting at the initiation of this process in a place as close as feasible to the affected areas.  


California Water Resilience Portfolio


This portfolio was created in response to Governor Newsom’s Executive Order N-10-19, and creates a framework to address water challenges related to disruptions, climate-related shocks, and necessary adaptations. Four broad approaches are identified: 1) Maintain and diversify water supplies; 2) protect and enhance natural systems; 3) build connections; and 4) be prepared. The portfolio is not a binding, enforceable document, but does outline more than 100 separate detailed actions to “ensure California water systems work for our communities, our economy, and our environment. The Administration will work with the Legislature and stakeholders to make progress on the actions. These actions will be implemented to the extent resources are available.”