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New Bill Provides Stronger Protection for Tenants Relying on Domestic Wells in Disadvantaged Communities

Assemblymember Alex Lee Introduces AB 664 to Ensure Tenants on Domestic Wells Have Access to Safe Drinking Water

For immediate release:

Today, Assemblymember Alex Lee announced AB 664 to ensure that tenants of rental properties served solely by domestic wells have access to safe drinking water, if well owners do not consent to consolidation or extension of service from a receiving water system. Disadvantaged communities are more likely to rely on smaller, older, and poorly maintained water systems or domestic wells, which may contain contaminants associated with a broad range of health issues including gastrointestinal illness, cancer, developmental and reproductive effects, neurological symptoms, and organ damage. 

Water filling a bucket

The state and federal governments do not regulate the water quality of domestic wells. When contaminants are found in domestic wells, owners are responsible for implementing remediation strategies, which can be expensive. Well owners may need to install and maintain multiple treatment systems, depending upon the specific water quality issues. In cases where water treatment systems cannot address the issue or are not successful, well owners may even need to obtain an alternative water supply or drill a new well that taps a less contaminated aquifer.

The State Water Board can order water system consolidation–the physical or managerial joining of two or more systems–where a disadvantaged community relies on domestic wells that consistently fail or are at risk of failure. Participating in consolidation can help domestic well owners access vital resources for improving their drinking water quality, but current state law does not require well owners to participate, nor does it require landlords to ensure their tenants have access to safe drinking water. Without written consent, domestic well owners are ineligible for most forms of state water-related grants. Currently, renters living in disadvantaged communities reliant on domestic wells face the risk of continued exposure to contaminated drinking water, with little recourse, when well owners do not consent to testing or willfully decline consolidation without holding themselves accountable for ensuring their wells provide safe drinking water.

“To fully realize the promise of the Human Right to Water, California must ensure that all of our residents have access to safe drinking water,” said Assemblymember Alex Lee. “AB 664 will make domestic well owners accountable for providing safe drinking water to renters relying on their wells, in instances where they decline consolidation and the resources that are offered as part of this process.”

"When tenants rely on domestic wells serving unsafe water to their families, it's the responsibility of the landlord to pursue all possible drinking water solutions — including consolidation,” said Susana De Anda, Executive Director of Community Water Center.

The bill is sponsored by the Community Water Center.