By Ben Irwin, News Reporter
Gov. Gavin Newsom signs SB 403 into law, giving State Water Board more authority over small community water woes
TULARE COUNTY – On Sept. 23, after crushing the republican opposition in the recall election, Governor Gavin Newsom got back to governing and made a trip to smoke-choked Tulare County to sign a robust $15 billion climate package as the KNP Complex fire raged in the mountains above. During his trip to the Sequoias, he also signed a slew of water bills—among them extending the water utility shutoff moratorium through at least the end of the year and requiring water shortage contingency plans for small water suppliers—another tendril of climate change directly impacting Tulare County residents parched at the center of the West’s water crisis.
“California is doubling down on our nation-leading policies to confront the climate crisis head-on while protecting the hardest-hit communities,” Newsom said. “We’re deploying a comprehensive approach to meet the sobering challenges of the extreme weather patterns that imperil our way of life and the Golden State as we know it, including the largest investment in state history to bolster wildfire resilience, funding to tackle the drought emergency while building long-term water resilience, and strategic investments across the spectrum to protect communities from extreme heat, sea level rise and other climate risks that endanger the most vulnerable among us.”
Among the signings was SB 403, penned by Senate majority whip Lena Gonzalez to, among other revisions, arm water districts and state government with the tools to take proactive measures in consolidating water systems serving disadvantaged communities to a more dependable water supply.
A prime example of the woes of previous water law is the two road town of Tooleville, just outside Exeter, which has suffered undrinkable water for the last two decades. SB 88, the older consolidation legislation, dictated that a system must consistently fail to provide an adequate supply of safe drinking water before the state can take action. The unincorporated area hovered above and just below the maximum contaminant levels (MCL) for nitrates from farming fertilizers and septic systems, coliform bacteria from low water pressure and leaky pipes and the cancerous heavy metal hexavalent chromium (chrom-6) for years.
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