State Water Board Launches Human Right to Water Web Portal

SACRAMENTO, Feb. 14, 2017Today the State Water Resources Control Board announced the launch of its Human Right to Water Portal, a new website for the public to find information related to efforts to assure that every Californian has access to safe, clean and affordable drinking water.

“This new website will serve as a valuable resource for the general public seeking drinking water compliance data on the state’s regulated water systems,” said Darrin Polhemus, deputy director for the State Water Board’s Division of Drinking Water. “Here the public will be able to see what types of contamination issues water systems are facing and what they are doing to return to compliance.”

With data on more than 3,000 community, schools and day care public water systems in California, the website lets users look up their water system and see whether it complies with federal drinking water standards. The site includes an interactive map that shows the locations of 292 public water systems that are currently out of compliance with federal standards for contaminants such as nitrate and arsenic.

The website includes information on state efforts to assist local communities in addressing contamination problems and improve access to safe, affordable drinking water. In recent years, for example, smaller water systems in disadvantaged communities have returned to compliance by consolidating with larger systems. Some of these success stories are described on the website.

Users can also find other useful information, such as downloadable public water system data, reports and media on the human right to water, and an explanation of the Affordable Safe Drinking Water Initiative. The portal will be updated with new information as it becomes available, including content on drinking water affordability and accessibility.

In 2015, the “Resilient, Affordable, Safe Drinking Water for Disadvantaged Communities Framework” was created, which identified a series of measures necessary to ensure that all communities have access to safe and affordable water. Over the past two years, the state Legislature and Governor Edmund G. Brown Jr. have taken important steps toward implementing the actions specified in the framework.

Some of the actions include giving the State Water Board authority to order the mandatory consolidations of public water systems that do not provide water that meets drinking water standards (Senate Bill 88, Senate Committee on Fiscal Review), as well as require failing public water systems that serve disadvantage communities to obtain State Water Board-approved managerial services to help reach compliance (SB 552, Wolk). In an effort to reduce the proliferation of public water systems, SB 1263, Wieckowski, will prevent the establishment of new, unsustainable public water systems.

The most significant remaining challenge is the lack of funding necessary to help subsidize the water rates paid by low-income residents, the costs of an administrator, and operation and maintenance of drinking water systems. On Feb 8, 2017, the State Water Board hosted a workshop on the Affordable, Safe Drinking Water Initiative, in which many stakeholders and community members voiced concerns about clean water affordability and accessibility, and discussed what implementation of a low-income rate assistance program could look like. For more information visit: http://www.waterboards.ca.gov/water_issues/programs/conservation_portal/assistance/

On Sept. 25, 2012, Gov. Brown signed Assembly Bill 685, making California the first state in the nation to recognize that “every human being has the right to safe, clean, affordable and accessible water…”  The State Water Board adopted a resolution on Feb. 16, 2016, identifying the human right to water as a top priority and core value of the State and Regional Water Boards.

Users can access the website at: http://www.waterboards.ca.gov/water_issues/programs/hr2w/index.shtml