Water is undeniably one of the most important issues impacting the South San Joaquin Valley. As farmers, we are either worried about lack of water supply or over regulation of it, but as residents, we should also be concerned about water quality.
An analysis of reports from the State Water Resources Control Board demonstrates that as many as 1 in 4 schools in the Central Valley have been impacted by substandard drinking water. This includes Kit Carson elementary school in Hanford. During my tenure as a trustee of Kit Carson's school board, I witnessed first hand the financial burden complying with regulations can be for the schools. If it weren't for the school's proximity to the City of Hanford, their cost to manage their arsenic problem, a naturally occurring element, would have broke the district. As a resident whose family has lived here for nearly 125 years, this is an issue I take very seriously.
Despite the excessive rain last winter, some local water supplies do not meet state & federal drinking water standards, even here in Hanford. Many of these issues are naturally occurring, but some we as farmers can help manage.
State and regional water boards have threatened enforcement actions on agricultural communities and trial attorneys have filed lawsuits, but there hasn’t been a statewide solution offered until Senator Bill Monning introduced SB 623.
SB 623 creates a drinking water fund at the State Water Board aimed at providing emergency relief for impacted communities and then investing in much needed infrastructure and cost-effective solutions for those populations. Additionally, this bill allows farmers to continue to farm without the threat of enforcement actions from the water boards. Incidentally, fines and legal fees don't clean drinking water. I call this a win/win.
With the legislative session wrapping up this week, it is imperative that they pass this bill now. It is crazy in a state that is home to the most innovative technology in the world, that we still suffer from third-world problems in our own communities. The time has come to pass legislation to fix this decades old problem.
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