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Board Eyes Drinking, Fishing Water Quality Amendments

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Sacramento, CA – With its newly revised requirements for water conservation now squarely in place,  the state water board is tackling water code revisions that would further emphasize water quality for human consumption and for tribal, cultural and subsistence fishing.

Today, the water board announced that state administrative law officials approved the Extended Emergency Regulation adopted by the State Water Resources Control Board at its Feb. 2 meeting. As part of the new regulation, a water supplier may request an adjustment to its conservation standard by submitting required information for verification through an online tool available through March 15.

At its Feb. 16 meeting next Tuesday, the board will consider adopting a draft resolution that would revise a section of the State Water Code enacted back in 2012 that, at the time, made California the first state to recognize the human right to water through formal legislation. The added draft language is intended to consider the human right to water a core value for Californians, further requiring that the board protect all beneficial uses of municipal and domestic water sources — not just those considered as “drinking” water. In cases when potentially harmful discharges pose a threat to human health, board responsibility would include ensuring that replacement water be provided to those in need while water quality issues are resolved.

The board will likely adopt a draft resolution directing staff to develop beneficial uses and definitions pertaining to tribal traditional, cultural and subsistence fishing with input from a group of tribes and tribal and environmental justice representatives. The groundwork will enable the board to amend the statewide Water Quality Control Plan for Inland Surface Waters, Enclosed Bays, and Estuaries.

The formal establishment of new statewide beneficial use definitions will enable regional water boards to designate or consider making site-specific beneficial use designations for specific waterbodies where those uses may already exist or be attainable. Once the resolution is in place, the board anticipates that its next steps would include the adoption of a Statewide Mercury Plan with specific mercury water quality objectives that would apply, as protective use measures, to waters used for commercial or sport fishing as well as for tribal, cultural and subsistence fishing.