SB 200 meeting

Residents of Sanger, California, meet with Gov. Gavin Newsom, center, and state senators Anna Caballero (second from left) and Bill Monning (partly visible, second from right) who represent the Central Coast. Newsom signed SB 200 in Sanger, where the water is not up to safe drinking standards. 

It's a first for California, and a first for State Sen. Bill Monning, D-Carmel. Gov. Gavin Newsom signed SB 200 into law today flanked by supporters in the Central Valley city of Sanger in a signing ceremony—the first such ceremony for the signing of any of Monning's 100-plus bills since he was first elected to the California Legislature in 2008. 

"It is a big deal for me and for the state of California," Monning says. "I've been working on this for about four years."

The bill creates the $1.3 billion Safe and Affordable Drinking Water Fund, with a commitment of $130 million a year for 10 years. Those funds—revenue from the state's greenhouse gas reduction fund—will go to implementing water projects such as treatment facilities or pipeline hook-ups to existing systems. 

The law comes seven years after the Legislature passed a resolution declaring that safe drinking water is a human right. But declarations are just that, and without funds to build new water systems, an estimated 1 million Californians—disproportionately in low-income communities—experience unsafe drinking water in any given year. 

State Water Resources Control Board data shows about 300 public water systems are currently out of compliance with drinking water standards. 

“The fact that more than a million Californians can’t rely on clean water to drink or bathe in is a moral disgrace,” Newsom said in a statement. “Parents shouldn’t have to worry about their kids drinking from the water fountain at school, and families shouldn’t have to dump water over their heads to shower every day. This funding is critically important to addressing California’s long-standing safe drinking water issues, and I would like to thank the Legislature for working collaboratively to pass this solution.”

Assemblymember Ann Caballero, whose Salinas Valley and Central Valley district includes communities such as San Lucas and San Gerardo, that have struggled to maintain a supply of safe drinking water at a reasonable cost, praised the Legislature and governor for finding a long-elusive funding solution. 

“I am proud of the work of the Legislature to address the water crisis in our state,” she said in a statement.

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Sara Rubin loves long public meetings, red pens and reading (on newsprint). She has been editor of the Monterey County Weekly since 2016, and has been on staff since 2010.

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