NARRATOR: Activists and protesters demanding clean and accessible drinking water gathered outside State Assemblymember Adam Gray’s office in Merced, California. They lobbied in support of Senate Bill 623, which is called the Safe and Affordable Drinking Water Fund. SB 623 would place a statewide tax on drinking water so that those in low-income and underserved communities with contaminated water can have access to safe drinking water.
At the rally, Pedro Hernandez of the Leadership Counsel for Justice and Accountability mentioned AB 685, which made California the first state in the nation to legally recognize that clean water is a basic human right. But many in Gray’s district do not have the access to it.
PEDRO HERNANDEZ: Here in Adam Gray’s district, Assembly District 21, there are 17 communities that are outside of maximum contaminant level compliance, totaling over 80,000 residents that are currently without safe water.
NARRATOR: Multiple communities in Assembly District 21 have contamination levels above the healthy limit and the legal limit. Some of the contaminants include TTHM, Hexavalent Chromium, Arsenic, and Combined Uranium. The communities include the cities of Patterson, Newman, Los Banos, and Dos Palos.
FLOR: I live in Livingston and I would like to have clean water, especially for the kids. You know, like in summer, how much water they drink. And especially my kids, they have to walk one mile and a half at 3 p.m. Imagine how thirsty they are. All the kids deserve clean water.
NARRATOR: Flor is a low-income resident of Livingston. She says her problem has been having to choose between her children being thirsty and not having clean water for them to drink, or paying for water she can’t afford.
FLOR: For a month, I spend like more than a hundred dollars. And that’s a hundred dollars I have to spend on my bill for water.
ACE MEJIA-SANCHEZ: My name is Ace Mejia-Sanchez and I am from Dos Palos, one of the three hundred communities in California currently without access to reliable drinking water. My home has always been the Central Valley. Here, where communities have been most impacted by unsafe drinking water. I am only one of many young people in my community who has been affected directly by California’s drinking water crisis and it has gone on for far too long.
NARRATOR: Ace Mejia-Sanchez, who got connected to the Community Water Center after being involved in the nonprofit Adventure Risk Challenge at Dos Palos High School, has been involved in water justice after finding out how much of her community has no access to safe drinking water.
ACE MEJIA-SANCHEZ: I’ve always been interested in activism. I didn’t realize it was such a large problem. I knew it was a problem, but I didn’t realize that it directly affected me and my community. I thought we were fine, but I went over a consumer report in my community from 2016 and we were nearly at double the state limit in TTHMs and I couldn’t believe that this was still a problem. It was affecting me, it’s affecting my peers, so it encouraged me to come out here and try to get a movement going and see if I could get younger generations to push and do something about it.
NARRATOR: For those who showed up to rally outside Assemblymember Gray’s office, all they want is for Gray to listen to the communities he serves and address their problems.
FLOR: I hope he does something and because he’s in that position to do something, well just do it. Because we need that and he knows because this is not the first time.
ACE MEJIA-SANCHEZ: It’s time for elected officials in the Central Valley and across California to demonstrate true leadership for this cause. My generation should not have to be hindered by such medieval an issue as the basic human right to safe and affordable drinking water.
NARRATOR: SB 623 was last amended in Assembly August 2017. The bill was referred to the Senate Rules Committee in September 2017, where it has been since.