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Opt-out program would provide universal, statewide access to water rate assistance

SACRAMENTO, Calif. — Today, Senator Durazo amended Senate Bill 1255, which will provide an avenue for universal water affordability rate assistance for public water systems with more than 3,300 connections. As water rates continue to rise three times faster than inflation, a water affordability program is necessary for low-income families statewide.

“I am from a low-income community and I am a mother advocating for clean water, which is a human right. It is important that this bill advances not only for me and my family but also for everyone in California," says Raquel Sanchez, founding AGUA coalition member from the city of Tulare. “Everything is going up in cost from rent to gasoline and we need assistance with our drinking water now so I am willing to advocate for my community.”

In 2012, California passed the Human Right to Water, the first of its kind in the country. This law guarantees safe, clean, affordable, and accessible water and sanitation for all in the state. While we’ve made important progress, we still have work to do— especially when it comes to water affordability. Some families are paying up to 10% of their monthly income on their water bill. Unlike other goods, water is vital, and unlike other utilities that have rate assistance programs, there is no option but to pay these high rates and fall further into debt.

“In California, it's our low-income communities of color who are disproportionately carrying the burden of unaffordable water,” says Susana De Anda, Executive Director of Community Water Center. “They are forced daily to make impossible choices between paying for high water bills or paying for groceries. Paying for high water bills or paying rent. Paying for high water bills or paying for healthcare.”

"Water access is a basic human need that too many Angelenos struggle to afford,” Says Lauren Ahkiam, Climate Campaign Co-Director at Los Angeles Alliance for a New Economy. “We are grateful for Senator Durazo's continued advocacy for the rights and wellbeing of working class communities and communities of color in her district and across the state, as exemplified in her sponsorship of SB 1255."

Senate Bill 1255 would create a universal opt-out water rate affordability program for all public water systems with more than 3,300 connections — covering over 95% of Californians. SB 1255 builds on lessons learned during the pandemic to streamline relief to California residents who need it the most. SB 1255 also recognizes the hundreds of very small water systems that are too small to self-fund such a program and takes the first step to close the remaining affordability gap.

“Senator Durazo is committed to improving water access for millions of California households,” said Jennifer Clary, California Director of Clean Water Action. “It’s an honor to work with a leader who is committed to helping the most vulnerable Californians.”

“SB 1255 is a monumental first step that would help to make water more affordable for the 90% of Californians who receive tap water from a medium or large water system,” said Michael Claiborne, Directing Attorney with Leadership Counsel for Justice and Accountability. “At the same time, we thank Senator Durazo for recognizing that water unaffordability is also harming residents served by small water systems, who would benefit from the bill’s requirement for additional study regarding statewide funding needs.”

To make good on the Human Right to Water in California, we must provide a viable pathway for affordable water, regardless of income. Senate Bill 1255 starts California on that pathway.  We look forward to advocating alongside Senator Durazo for affordable water for all.


Clean Water Action has worked to win strong health and environmental protections by bringing issue expertise, solution-oriented thinking and people power to the table since our founding during the campaign to pass the landmark Clean Water Act in 1972. Our Mission is to protect our environment, health, economic well-being and community quality of life. Clean Water Action organizes strong grassroots groups and coalitions, and campaigns to elect environmental candidates and to solve environmental and community problems.
Twitter: @cleanh2oca
Facebook: @CleanWaterActionCalifornia
Instagram: @cleanh2oaction

Community Water Center (CWC) works to ensure that all communities have reliable access to safe, clean, and affordable water. Founded in 2006, CWC is a not-for-profit environmental justice organization, whose mission is to act as a catalyst for community-driven water solutions through education, organizing, and advocacy.
Twitter: @CWaterC
Facebook: @CommunityWaterCenter

Leadership Counsel for Justice and Accountability works alongside the most impacted communities in the San Joaquin Valley and Eastern Coachella Valley to advocate for sound policy and eradicate injustice to secure equal access to opportunity regardless of wealth, race, income, and place.  Leadership Counsel focuses on issues like housing, land use, transportation, safe and affordable drinking water and climate change impacts on communities. 
Twitter: LCJandA
Facebook: @lcjacalifornia
Instagram @leadership_counsel 


Press Contacts
Marissa Urias, Clean Water Action
Maraid Jimenez, Community Water Center
Jill Hindenach, Leadership Counsel for Justice & Accountability
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