AB 685 Clears Senate, Heads to Assembly for Concurrence

Legislation aimed at codifying a “right to water” cleared the Senate Aug. 23 and is awaiting action on the Assembly floor.

ACWA-opposed AB 685 (Eng) would declare that it is the policy of the state that every human has the right to clean, affordable, and accessible water. It was approved by the full Senate on a 22-16 vote and returned to the Assembly for concurrence in Senate amendments. If approved there, the bill would go to the governor’s desk for signature or veto.

ACWA and other opponents say AB 685, though seemingly well intended, is unnecessary and duplicative. California Water Code Section 106, established in 1913, is already a fundamental cornerstone of the water rights system in this state. It declares that the use of water for domestic purposes is the highest use of water, and it would appear unnecessary to make any modification to further amplify this existing domestic preference policy.

Moreover, creating a new “right to water” in California law could potentially upset decades of legal precedent and have major budget implications for public water agencies at a time when local budgets are already stretched. It could also negatively affect the ability of water agencies to provide safe, clean and affordable water to all their customers.

ACWA has been working with a coalition to explain these concerns to the author. The coalition has offered amendments on multiple occasions that would improve the bill, while still preserving the original stated intent of the legislation. However, the coalition and the bill’s sponsors have been unable to reach an agreement.

ACWA is urging member agencies to send letters opposing AB 685 to members of the Assembly in their service areas.

Please see ACWA’s alert on the bill for further details.