California Governor Signs Bill Addressing Access to Safe Freshwater Recreation Sites

For immediate release:

 

SACRAMENTO – Late yesterday afternoon, Governor Newsom signed AB 1066, which works toward protecting public health by starting the process of creating a uniform set of statewide monitoring standards and protocols for testing bacteria in priority inland freshwater bodies throughout the state. Authored by Assemblymember Richard Bloom (D – Santa Monica) and co-authored by Senator Ben Allen (D-Santa Monica), AB 1066 also addresses an important equity issue: inland areas should be afforded the same public health protections as coastal areas.

California’s rivers, lakes, and streams are not monitored for recreational water quality in the same manner as ocean beaches. “AB 1066 will address a key public health challenge that many Californians face in outdoor recreation,” said Assemblymember Bloom, “We need to make sure that there are scientific and health-based bacterial standards, ongoing water quality monitoring, and public notification for freshwater recreation to create safer recreational experiences so that all Californians can enjoy our freshwater lakes and rivers.”

Annually, there are over 90 million illnesses related to untreated recreational waters, both fresh andmarine, in the U.S. resulting in $3 billion in healthcare costs. As it currently stands, visitors to freshwater recreation sites may be exposed to contaminated water with no knowledge of its contamination and what little monitoring data that does exist is not available to the public.

“In the 1990s, information on whether it was safe to swim, based on bacteria levels at beaches, was not readily available to the public. Heal the Bay and our Beach Report Card were instrumental in establishing consistent water quality monitoring and public notification protocols statewide, resulting in water quality improvements and allowing the public to make more informed decisions to protect their health. AB 1066 begins the process to establish a statewide water quality monitoring program for freshwater recreation areas where people come into contact with the water. As monitoring requirements and protections are put in place, we look forward to our River Report Card growing from a local resource in LA County to a statewide tool throughout California,” said Dr. Katherine Pease, Science & Policy Director at Heal the Bay.

AB 1066 protects public health by tasking the California Water Quality Monitoring Council with developing recommendations for a uniform set of statewide monitoring standards and protocols for testing bacteria in high use freshwater bodies throughout the state. The  monitoring program recommendations and definition of waterbodies this would be applicable to will be presented to the State Water Board by December 31, 2023.

Enjoying broad support from groups such as Heal the Bay and the California Association of Environmental Health Administrators, AB 1066 becomes law on January 1, 2022.