AB 685 headed to the Governor’s Desk – Your Veto Request Letters are Needed!

September 7 Update

Take Action Now!AB 685 passed from the Assembly on August 29, just two days before the legislative session ended. ACWA is urging Governor Brown to veto the bill.

After AB 685 received its final floor vote, a member of the coalition requested that Assembly Member Eng submit a letter to the Assembly Journal clarifying the intent behind his bill. “Letters to the Journal” are used to establish an official record of legislative intent where such intent is not clear on the face of a bill. After reviewing Assembly Member Eng’s letter, ACWA and other coalition members continue to have substantial concerns. In fact, the ACWA State Legislative Committee voted to seek a veto of the bill. Simply put, efforts to clarify the Author’s intent should have been made in the language of the bill itself.

ACWA is submitting its own veto request to Governor Brown. Your individual veto request letters are needed to demonstrate that water agencies up and down the state have concerns with the bill. Governor Brown has until September 30 to sign or veto the bill.

If you have any questions about ACWA’s position on the bill, please contact Cindy Tuck at (916) 441-4545 or

Background Information

AB 685 (Eng) would declare that it is the policy of the state that every human has the right to safe, clean, affordable, and accessible water. ACWA understands that establishing this “right” is only a first step for the sponsors of this bill. Should AB 685 become law, the consequences could be significant.

While codifying a “right to water” might seem like a laudable proposal, AB 685 could have major negative consequences that have been difficult for the author and sponsors to recognize. Most concerning to ACWA is that the bill could be misinterpreted to prohibit a water agency from turning off a non-paying customer’s water. The attached sample letter explains some of the specific policy concerns that ACWA has with the bill 

ACWA has been working with a coalition for the last year and a half to educate Assembly Member Eng about the problems his bill would create. The coalition has offered amendments on multiple occasions that would make the bill better, while still preserving the original stated intent of his legislation. However, the coalition and the sponsors were unable to reach an agreement.

ACWA is urging member agencies to send letters to Governor Brown requesting that he veto the bill. A sample letter is included below that highlights the concerns the ACWA coalition has relating to this bill. Please send your letter to Governor Brown, Assembly Member Eng, and ACWA staff.


Click the "Take Action Now" link to edit and send the sample letter below to Governor Brown.

Please be sure to edit the section of the letter to reference your agency name and give examples of how this legislation could affect your agency.

September XX, 2012

The Honorable Edmund G. Grown Jr.
Governor, State of California
State Capitol
Sacramento, CA 95814

RE:      Assembly Bill 685 (Eng) – Request for Veto


Dear Governor Brown:

I am writing on behalf of (INSERT AGENCY NAME) to express our strong opposition to AB 685 (Eng). The bill has the potential to upset decades of legal precedent while doing nothing to address the challenges of providing safe drinking water to disadvantaged communities.

AB 685 would declare that it is the policy of the state that every human being has the right to clean, affordable, and accessible water. While this is a noble policy goal, California Water Code Section 106 already declares that “the use of water for domestic purposes” is the “highest use” of water. This basic water policy has been vetted through the courts for decades. Codifying a new “human right to water” without considering existing legal authority will lead to conflicts that have not been adequately addressed by this legislation. For example, by using the words “right to water” and “affordable” without any other context, the bill could be misinterpreted to prohibit a water agency from terminating the water service of a non-paying customer.

The bill is so ambiguous that it would invite endless litigation in order to define the meaning of this new “human right to water.” The Senate Appropriations Committee was sufficiently concerned with potential state costs to request an amendment that would exempt the State from any new obligation to provide water or develop water infrastructure. The Senate Committee on Appropriations noted that the State might be liable for the cost of providing safe drinking water should the law be interpreted as creating an enforceable right. While amendments made to AB 685 exempted the State from some of this liability, the bill could still leave local agencies exposed to costly litigation. Local agencies cannot afford the uncertainty that this legislation would create.

California Water Code Section 106 is already a fundamental cornerstone of the water rights system in this state. Creating a new “right to water” in California law could potentially upset decades of legal precedent and negatively affect the ability of water agencies to provide safe, clean and affordable water to all their customers. For these reasons, we strongly urge you to veto AB 685.



Agency Name

cc:        The Honorable Mike Eng
            Association of California Water Agencies

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