We Can Solve it Without a Drinking Water Tax


For Customers

While most Californians have access to safe and reliable drinking water, there are still more than 300 water systems in the state that are non-compliant and fail to deliver water that meets public health standards. Vast majorities of these systems are privately owned and located throughout the Central Valley in rural, disadvantaged communities.

Western supports every Californian having access to a clean and reliable water supply, and we believe that a solution should address the root cause of the failing systems—often a lack of technical, managerial, or financial experience—before determining any type of funding mechanism.

Legislation (SB 623 and a related Brown Administration Budget Trailer Bill) has been proposed, seeking to implement the first ever “Water Tax” that would collect funds from ratepayers throughout the state to fund system improvements for non-compliant systems in other parts of the state. For Western’s customers, the Water Tax would be a fee of up to $10 per month added to their water bills.

Western believes that failing systems need a better solution to operate safely and responsibly, without the need for a Water Tax. In an effort to develop a long-term solution, Eastern Municipal Water District (EMWD) and the California Municipal Utilities Association have co-sponsored Assembly Bill (AB) 2050, the Small System Water Authority Act of 2018.

AB 2050 allows for the merger of multiple, non-compliant water systems that may be close in general proximity, into larger and more robust systems that can operate collectively at lower costs overall. These new special districts would be known as “Small System Water Authorities”, and will help provide all Californians with access to safe and reliable drinking water, now and into the future.

These newly formed Small System Water Authorities would then have better financing opportunities due to a larger customer base, with increased access to state grants and municipal bonds or other funding mechanisms which are historically used by larger public agencies. They would also be held to strict standards, which would ensure funds are used appropriately to develop necessary infrastructure to address contamination issues so that safe and affordable water is delivered to rural Californians.