California Budget Includes Billions for Water, a “Hopeful Step Toward Realizing the Human Right to Water in California”

California state lawmakers have passed a 2021-2022 state budget that includes $2billion for drinking water, wastewater infrastructure, and program support, with a focus on underserved and small communities. The package covers immediate drought response efforts and long-term water resilience, including funds to address emergency needs and build regional capacity to safeguard water supply. 

The budget comes on the heels of a 2021 California State Water Resources Control Board assessment of challenges facing California water systems struggling to provide safe drinking water. The Pacific Institute led the Funding Gap Analysis of this Drinking Water Cost Assessment & Gap Analysis, evaluating funding need compared to funding availability for struggling drinking water systems and domestic wells across the state. 

“We found that over the next five years, $10.3 billion will be needed to support struggling water systems and well owners across California – well above allocated state resources,” says Pacific Institute Research Associate Morgan Shimabuku, who contributed to the project. “Since the publication of this assessment, California’s state budget for addressing drinking water issues has expanded to $2 billion. This is a hopeful step towards realizing the Human Right to Water in California.” 

“However, our work is not done,” says Shimabuku. “The current drought is quickly adding to water equity challenges. It will be critical to continue to prioritize water system investments across the state for years to come to fully realize the Human Right to Water.”  

California is making progress on universal water provision. In 2012, California’s Human Right to Water was passed, calling for safe, clean, affordable, and accessible water for all Californians. In 2016, the California State Water Resources Control Board adopted a Human Right to Water Resolution, making the human right to water a priority across its programs. California’s Safe and Affordable Funding for Equity and Resilience (SAFER) Program was developed based upon this commitment. This research marked the first assessment of the funding gap to support SAFER, which strives to ensure safe, affordable drinking water for all Californians. Learn more about the Gap Analysis for Funding Solutions for the California Human Right to Water and At-Risk Drinking Water Systems here 

Learn more about the Pacific Institute’s water policy work here 


Founded in 1987, the Pacific Institute is a global water think tank that combines science-based thought leadership with active outreach to influence local, national, and international efforts in developing sustainable water policies. The Pacific Institute’s mission is to create and advance solutions to the world’s most pressing water challenges. Through an interdisciplinary and nonpartisan approach, the Institute actively collaborates with a diverse set of stakeholders, including policymakers, scientists, corporate leaders, international organizations such as the United Nations, advocacy groups, and local communities.