California Gov. Gavin Newsom (D) signed a bill on Wednesday to provide funding to improve local communities’ access to safe drinking water.
The bill creates a fund to provide state money to projects aimed at improving local water systems. The new fund will draw up to $130 million from money currently allocated to reducing greenhouse gas emissions.
About 1 million Californians lack access to safe drinking water, according to the governor’s office.
“The fact that more than a million Californians can’t rely on clean water to drink or bathe in is a moral disgrace,” Newsom said in a news release. “Parents shouldn’t have to worry about their kids drinking from the water fountain at school, and families shouldn’t have to dump water over their heads to shower every day.”
Newsom spoke to residents Wednesday alongside workers’ rights activist Dolores Huerta in a small central California community in Fresno County, where families don’t have access to safe drinking water. They get deliveries of bottled water every two weeks through a grant program as a short-term solution.
“In our home, the water stopped for three months,” one resident said in Spanish, in a video speaking with the governor. “We didn’t have any water ― not even to wash our hands, not to cook. When my kids ― I have five ― went to the bathroom, we didn’t have water to flush. When they brought the bottled water, I cried of happiness.”
There are plans to extend a water system from a nearby city to reach families on the outskirts who are currently without adequate water access.
California has also been hit by worsening wildfires in recent years, further threatening access to safe water. Residents who remain in Paradise, a rural northern California community that was almost completely wiped out by the Camp Fire in November (the state’s deadliest wildfire ever), still can’t drink their tap water, which was contaminated after the blaze.