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Taxing water, really?


Last updated 2/21/2019 at 3:08pm

California lawmakers recognized water as a basic human right in 2012. Since then, voters have approved over $10 billion in bonds to fund statewide water projects, yet for some Californians, clean and safe drinking water is still unavailable.

So why is this? And why are residents being asked to pay a tax every time they turn on the faucet?

According to a recent study, 360,000 people living in mostly rural and agricultural regions of the state are served by water systems that provide unsafe drinking water, and around 6 million have water providers that have violated state standards in recent years. Unfortunately, many small water districts have been unable to provide the clean water that many take for granted.

To provide the funding necessary to clean up unsafe and contaminated water systems, a water tax is again under consideration by the new governor in Sacramento. When the idea was first proposed last year, it met with a lot of opposition, including the Association of California Water Agencies which represents over 400 water districts throughout the state. Though the idea died last session, it has now been revived.

Fortunately, there is a bipartisan alternative. Assembly Constitutional Amendment 3, which is written by Assemblymembers Devon Mathis, R – Visalia, and Eduardo Garcia, D – Coachella, pays for clean water in the regular budget, providing a stable source of funding for projects to improve California’s water supply, quality and delivery systems – all without a new water tax.

Access to clean, safe water is a fundamental human right, a fact that should be reflected in our budget priorities. Passage of ACA 3 will make water project funding a budget priority and an integral part of the state’s regular budgeting process. With a budget surplus estimated at $21 billion, there is simply no need to tax water.


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