MERCED, California - Constituents of Assemblymember Adam Gray held signs and shouted several chants outside of his Merced office. They were asking for the lawmaker's support in getting clean water to Merced County. Specifically, asking his support in SB 623, a bill that would create a fund to help maintain the state's drinking water systems.
Paul Garcia, who lives in Delhi, at a rally Wednesday said living with contaminated water has not been ideal for his kidney condition.
"[I'm] constantly going to the doctor and they're saying I need to drink more water, but the water is contaminated," Garcia said.
Dos Palos High School senior Ace Mejia-Sanchez said contaminated water has been an issue all of her life. She remembers when her community started relying on water bottles.
"At a certain point in middle school, I remember that we were warned not to drink from water fountains," she said. "Sometimes I'd hear about kids going throughout the whole day without having a sip of water at all."
These were just two stories heard outside of Gray's office Friday, all with an overarching message: they want clean water and Gray's support of SB 623.
If passed, the bill would create a Safe and Affordable Drinking Water Fund to fix up California's ailing water systems. It would be funded through fees, though the specifics on that is not set.
Pedro Hernandez, a policy advocate with the Leadership Counsel for Justice and Accountability, said within Gray's district there are 17 dirtied water systems. According to their numbers, it affects 80,000 people.
He adds there is not enough data on water wells.
"One of the first things it would provide is a needs assessment. It would also fund research for domestic wells, so we can actually have a better idea of the need and the scope of the issue," Hernandez said.
Gray is currently out-of-state, but he released the following statement in regard to the rally:
- "I agree with the advocates who held a press conference in Merced today that clean and safe drinking water is a basic human right. That is why I am fighting the State Water Board's plan to redirect billions of gallons of the Valley's drinking water to the Bay Area and have been for several years. The Water Board itself says their plan will create a 'permanent regulatory drought,' and drinking water experts in our region predict a near total collapse of our primary drinking water supplies if the plan goes through. The Water Board has even opposed legislation I introduced to hold them accountable for the harm their plan will do to our disadvantaged communities. Now, the Water Board thinks it can put a gun to our head and demand a $100 million water tax which they plan to put right in their own pocket. America has a long-standing policy not to pay terrorist ransoms. I have the same policy."
SB 623 is currently with the Senate Rules Committee.