Building on efforts to provide support for residents during the statewide State of Emergency due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Gov. Gavin Newsom today suspended public water systems’ ability to disconnect water service to residences and critical infrastructure sector small businesses.
The executive order issued today builds on the steps already taken by the California Public Utilities Commission for private water systems and more than 100 public water systems within the state that have adopted their own policies for not shutting off water service to residents facing financial distress during the health emergency.
California Secretary for Environmental Protection Jared Blumenfeld praised the governor’s leadership in ensuring safe and affordable drinking water. “A lot of communities and families are having their water shut off,” Blumenfeld said. “This executive order allows for water to be turned back on and not shut off during this emergency – both residences and critical workforce small businesses.” The Secretary added that water shutoffs have created hardships, but “This will do a huge amount to change that.”
“Access to water and sanitation are critical to maintain in the midst of this public health crisis,” said State Water Resources Control Board Chair E. Joaquin Esquivel. “If individuals and families are cut off from running water or sanitation, the lack of access can compound the public health challenges we face.
“Many of our state’s public water agencies have shown incredible leadership by voluntarily providing these critical protections to their customers. This order will ensure there is statewide protection for Californians as we remain in our homes and follow the guidance of our public health experts. These protections and the ongoing crisis may create challenges for our state’s public water systems, and the State Water Board is committed to working with agencies experiencing difficulties.”
In addition to a prohibition on residential and critical infrastructure sector small business water shutoffs, the executive order requires water systems to restore service to residences that were shut off for non-payment after the March 4, 2020, emergency proclamation. The order also directs that State Water Board to identify ways to support water systems and their customers throughout the crisis.
To implement the executive order, the State Water Board is working on several interactive websites for water customers and drinking water systems. As soon as those portals are ready, they will be posted on the State Water Board’s website found at waterboards.ca.gov.