ACWA Legislative Symposium Tackles Safe Drinking Water, Groundwater

  • by Will Holbert
  • Mar 6, 2019
  • Water News

ACWA’s 2019 Legislative Symposium held today delved into the latest news on safe drinking water while also providing a detailed look into issues surrounding groundwater recharge.

The event drew 144 attendees, who also heard a luncheon question-and-answer session between Sen. Henry Stern (D-Canoga Park), the new chair of the Senate Committee on Natural Resources and Water, and ACWA Director of State Legislative Relations Wendy Ridderbusch.

The Safe Drinking Water Panel included Casey Creamer, President and CEO of California Citrus Mutual; Paul Jones, General Manager of Eastern Municipal Water District; Phoebe Seaton, Director of the Leadership Counsel for Justice and Accountability; and Cindy Tuck, ACWA Deputy Executive Director for Government Relations. Moderating the panel was ACWA Senior Legislative Advocate Adam Quiñonez.

The panel included an overview of SB 669 (Caballero) which is sponsored by ACWA and the California Municipal Utilities Association (CMUA). The bill would create the Safe Drinking Water Trust, a funding solution that is an alternative to a statewide water tax. Last year, the Legislature rejected a statewide water tax as a revenue source to assist a number of disadvantaged communities lacking access to safe drinking water. Gov. Gavin Newsom is now advancing a similar proposal — based on the framework of SB 623 (Monning, 2017).

Jones provided an overview of SB 414 (Caballero), which is sponsored by Eastern Municipal Water District and CMUA. Together, SB 414 and SB 669 provide a cooperative governance and funding solution that yields an equitable and sustainable alternative to the previously proposed water tax.

SB 414 addresses the governance of failing water systems by promoting the formation of Small System Water Authorities. By promoting governance reform and consolidating systems, customers will have greater oversight of their systems and realize an economy of scale for needed investments to bring the systems into compliance, Jones said.

The Groundwater Recharge panel explored details surrounding legislation and regulatory developments in the area of groundwater recharge. The panel included Assemblymember Joaquin Arambula, (D-Fresno), who authored legislation regarding groundwater recharge in 2018 and again this year. Other panelists were Erik Ekdahl, Deputy Director at the State Water Resources Control Board’s Division of Water Rights, and John Woodling, ACWA Board member and Chair of the Groundwater Committee.

The panel was chaired by Alf Brandt, Senior Counsel at the Office of Speaker Anthony Rendon.

During the luncheon, Stern said he is an advocate for local control and touched on a variety of issues during the question-and-answer session. He listed his biggest priorities as Chair of the Senate Committee on Natural Resources and Water as forestry, resources – including oil and gas drilling – and saving the ocean.

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