Democratic State Senator Melissa Hurtado of Sanger introduced legislation on Thursday calling for the dissolution of the State Water Resources Control Board.
A Blue Ribbon Commission of various state leaders would effectively take its place as a result of her legislation. Hurtado introduced Senate Bill 1219 — the State Water Resiliency and Modernization Act — to deal with the issue of the continued trouble the state has had in managing its water.
“Water impacts every facet of our life,” Hurtado said. “Californians are feeling the rise in prices for essentials like water, food and energy. As prices drastically increase due to inflation, we must look to ways to reduce costs. We in the Central Valley have been at the forefront of these concerns for a while. We feel the impacts and suffer the consequences long before many across California do.
“We need to focus on better water management, and true accountability. And modernizing our water system will do just that. We need government agencies that work for the people; as they’re intended to, and Californians deserve the ability to make decisions surrounding our state’s number one resource — water. By eliminating the State Water Resources Control Board, we are giving power to those who their policies most greatly impact, and are reimagining water management in the 21st Century."
The bill is co-authored by Democratic Senator Dave Cortese of Silicon Valley. "I am proud to co-author this bill that will help California navigate our worst drought since the late 1800’s through smart water management systems that prioritize water conservation and replenishment efforts to aid our most affected communities. I thank Senator Hurtado for her leadership in ensuring every Californian has access to safe and clean water," Cortese said.
The devastating drought across the state and in the Central Valley has increased the price of agricultural products, affecting the food system as a whole, Hurtado's office stated. Many towns across California have faced massive water curtailments, and have seen their wells run dry forcing them to jump through hoops and hurdles in order receive just enough water to live, it added.
“Safe drinking water and freshwater resources are central to the health of California’s economy and communities, but as it stands now, the State Water Resources Control Board is failing to manage water adequately for future generations,” Hurtado's office said. “The State Water Resources Control Board has become a bureaucratic barrier for Californians.”
As it stands now, the State Water Resources Control Board holds full control over water rights, water transfers, regulation regarding storm water discharges, irrigation discharges, water curtailments and water transfers. Members of the board are appointed and not elected — and have the power to raise fees and limit water access with a simple vote often times leaving fee-payers and those dependent on the water they control out of the process and without a voice, Hurtado's office stated.
SB 1219 would create a Blue Ribbon Commission that would effectively take the place of te Water Resources Board that will consist of members of various agencies in the state along with members from the Assembly and Senate.