California State Policy: Everyone Has a Legal Right to Affordable, Clean Water

Published on
October 11, 2012

Water is of vital importance to every person, community, state, and nation. California’s so-called “Human Right to Water package” is a group of bills that would expand efforts to improve water quality in California. The majority of attention has been paid to AB 685, by Assembly Member Mike Eng, which declares that “every human being has the right to safe, clean, affordable, and accessible water adequate for human consumption, cooking, and sanitary purposes.” That bill was signed by Governor Brown on September 25.

According to California Watch, water companies comprised most of the opposition to the bills at two committee hearings. Also opposed was the Association of California Water Agencies (ACWA).

The Industry Influence tool at, website of the National Institute on Money in State Politics, provides a detailed look at contributions given to lawmakers. Water utility companies contributed $199,265 to candidates for state office in California during the 2010 elections. The list of donations by company reveals that the California Water Association’s $53,500 makes it the top water utility contributor to candidates in California in 2010. Click “See Records” next to the table to itemize these contributions and learn that in 2009 the California Water Association gave the most, $5,000, to Anna Caballero, a Democrat who lost in the general election.

The ACWA did not contribute directly to candidates in 2010, but the organization did spend money on lobbying activities in the first, second, third, and sixth quarters of the 2011 and 2012 sessions, which included activity on AB 685.

Lobbying Expenses of the ACWA



General Lobbying













Supporters of AB 685 include the Unitarian Universalists and the Environmental Justice Coalition for Water. A search of the records at revealed no direct contributions to candidates from these organizations. A search for these organizations on Cal-Access, the website of the California State Legislature, revealed $28,093 in lobbying expenditures by the Unitarian Universalists in the second, third, and sixth quarters, which included lobbying on AB685. The Unitarian Universalists have a second committee that spent $53,955 on lobbying in quarters 2, 3, 4, 5, and 6, which all included lobbying on AB685.  The Environmental Justice Coalition for Water spent $3,000 lobbying on bills in the sixth quarter, one of which was AB 685.

This isn’t the first time California has reconsidered its water policies. In 2009, Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger vetoed AB 1242, also called the Human Right to Water Act. Water utility companies gave $145,995 to candidates in California in 2008; Schwarzenegger received $1,000 from the Pacific Water Quality Association.

Photo Credit: stevendamron