No Toxic Taps — Providing Safe Drinking Water to All

The Business of Building Community: The Leadership Group’s new blog series is dedicated to the community and how we, and our member companies, are serving it for the better.

More than one million Californians do not have access to clean water for bathing, drinking, and other basic needs. Instead, our fellow residents must rely on more expensive bottled water to avoid harmful contaminants–like lead and arsenic–in the local piped supply.

Access to safe drinking water for all is an environmental justice issue found in the Bay Area and other parts of California.

California law declares clean water as a human right. Access to clean water–and protection from environmental harm–is inextricably linked to the quality of life and economic well-being of our communities. In partnership with a statewide coalition of organizations, the Silicon Valley Leadership Group has prioritized such issues and advocated for a sustainable, dedicated source of ongoing funding to provide a modernized infrastructure system and reliable supply of water. 

Senate Bill 200–by State Senator Bill Monning and Assemblymembers Eduardo Garcia and Richard Bloom–was passed this year as an historic agreement to fund water quality improvements. The legislation and approved state budget authorize $130 million in funding annually, so that every community in our state may enjoy water from the tap that is safe to use and consume. Implementation of the policy and funding mechanisms slowly but surely proceeds towards a more environmentally just future.

Members of the Leadership Group agreed to remain engaged in California’s discussions this year about solutions to our clean water crisis. Precedent existed on the issue, and two of our member companies—San Jose Water and California Water Service Group (Cal Water)—provided particularly pertinent perspectives on how to take action. Their “frontline” added gravity and urgency to an issue that may seem distant from the heart of Silicon Valley.

Cal Water and San Jose Water commit themselves day-in and day-out to the provision of safe drinking water. 

Safe, reliable, and high quality water service serves as the backbone of our public health system delivering life-sustaining water and fire protection. It’s the only utility service that is ingested. Making sure that all Californians have access to safe and affordable drinking water is crucial to protecting public health, sustaining our economy, and to ensuring a high quality of life.” John Tang, VP of Regulatory Affairs and Government Relations, San Jose Water Company

Even as private entities, the companies do not value any less the public imperative to protect community health. Indeed, Cal Water joined with the Safe and Affordable Drinking Water coalition to advocate for the passage of this year’s clean water legislation and associated funding sources. When our member companies see problems impacting the community, their response is to advance solutions that benefit the greater good.

Importance to the Community

For the Leadership Group, building community means that everyone enjoys the same basic quality of life, regardless of ZIP code. Clean water cannot be an exception to the rule, if we are to call ourselves an equitable and inclusionary 21st-century society. California has taken one important step towards such an ideal, but the devil remains in the details of upgrading water infrastructure and ensuring sustainable operation and maintenance of our thousands of water systems. 

-Christophe LaBelle, Energy and Environment Associate, Silicon Valley Leadership Group | November 5, 2019