State lawmakers are considering a tax to help poor rural communities provide safe drinking water. Agricultural and environmental groups are backing the bill—but water companies, not so much.
More than a million Californians lack safe drinking water, either due to fertilizer runoff from farms or contaminants like arsenic.
The proposal would raise your water bill by around $10 a year. It could be more than $1,000 a year for farmers, says Tim Johnson, CEO of the California Rice Commission, which backs the proposal.
"We’ve combined forces with the environmental justice community folks that we frankly work against almost all the time," Johnson says.
But Cindy Tuck with the Association of California Water Agencies argues a new tax on water sets a precedent for others. She says water companies want clean drinking water for poor communities, but this is the wrong way to fund it.
"The state can solve this," says Tuck. "They can combine general fund money with federal money with bond money and with the ag assessment that’s proposed in the bill. They do that, and not have the tax on water, and there can be a good solution for the problem."
The bill faces a deadline next week to pass the Assembly Appropriations Committee, and would require a two-thirds vote in each house.