Most people in California take for granted the water and sanitation in their homes. They turn the tap and clean, relatively inexpensive, abundant water flows out. They flush the toilet, and waste vanishes.
Yet there are communities in California who do not have these basic necessities in their homes. In January 2018, over half a million Californians were served by water utilities that were out of compliance with the Safe Drinking Water Act (SDWA). The worst outbreak of Hepatitis A in recent memory occurred in 2016-2018 due to open defecation and lack of handwashing facilities for persons experiencing homelessness. California’s tribes continue to face problems of poor housing and water and sanitation service, with two-thirds of tribal communities reporting inadequate home plumbing in 2015. And the cost of water has increased for many, particularly among small and medium size systems, with 39 community water systems in the state charging more than $100 a month for 12 CCF of water.
In response to the problem, California enacted the Human Right to Water in 2012, declaring that “Every human being has the right to safe, clean, affordable, and accessible water adequate for human consumption, cooking, and sanitary purposes.”
The California State Water Resources Control Board (State Water Board) further recognized the need to address water and sanitation for disadvantaged communities when it adopted a resolution directing staff to “develop performance measures for the evaluation of the board’s progress towards the realization of the human right to water, evaluate that progress, and explore ways to make that information more readily available to the public,” and to “work with… stakeholders to develop new or enhance existing systems to collect the data needed to identify and track communities that do not have, or are at risk of not having, safe, clean, affordable, and accessible water adequate for human consumption, cooking, and sanitary purposes.”
This report offers a unified framework on how to measure progress toward universal access to water and sanitation in California.