It’s neither best practice or simply my practice to begin with an apology but forgive me for stating the obvious.

There is a problem in California that is almost impossible to believe. In almost any year, as many as 1,000,000 of our fellow Californians lack access to safe and clean drinking water. Here the kicker, most of those negatively affected communities are right here in the Central Valley.

Think about that for a moment. In a state where we have spent hundreds of billions of dollars to move water from one place to another, some of that water has moved right past communities that have brown sludge coming out of their faucets.

The lack of clean and reliable water for drinking, cooking, and sanitation, in over 300 communities in California, is absolutely unacceptable. The good news is that there is a non-partisan and surprisingly affordable mitigation at hand. The bad news is that its chance of survival in the legislature is in peril.

The problem is that establishing and maintaining water treatment plants is expensive. Disadvantaged communities like Poplar, where I grew up, have a very tough time finding the resources to do so. The tax base is small. Often, these communities lack even an organized local entity to speak for them.

Senate Bill 623 would establish a surprisingly affordable fund to finance continuing operation of water treatment plants for disadvantaged communities. Every homeowner in the state would contribute $0.95 a month (at the most), and fertilizing mills, dairies and other confined animal operations would also pay their fair share. This non-partisan bill is supported by over 400 entities across the board: from environmental organizations, to corporate entities, to civic bodies, to agricultural interests.

Safe and reliable drinking water is a human right. This bill passed the state senate with no opposing votes. The state assembly should pass this bill before the August 31 deadline, and send it to the Governor, who has indicated he will sign it. Election year politics must not get in the way of doing the right thing.

Art Rodriguez

Director at Poplar Community Service District.

Conservationist/Board member at Central Valley Empowerment Alliance.