California Municipal Utilities Association Opposes Proposed Law AB 1520 Which Erodes Privacy Protections for California Businesses

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Proposed law, AB 1520, threatens to undermine privacy of companies served by any municipal water utility and compromises the economic prospects of affected cities

If I’m a company looking for a place to locate, I would definitely be concerned that my competitors in jurisdictions served by privately-owned water agencies aren’t having their water usage publicized.

AB 1520, a bill authored by Assemblymember Stone (D-Scotts Valley), would force all municipal water utilities in California to disclose the water usage of their business customers in response to any public records request. Business accounts include commercial, industrial, and agricultural accounts. Customers would have no recourse in preventing their utilities from distributing, on an ongoing basis, their water usage. Many business water usages are process related and a function of proprietary operating requirements and not a function of a potential overuse of water for such non-necessary uses as lawn irrigation, for example. Providing this information could damage a businesses’ proper competitive interests without providing any useful information to the public in how effective that business is at saving water during droughts or avoiding waste.

California’s municipal water utilities, which serve large portions of cities such as Los Angeles, Long Beach, San Diego, San Francisco, Freemont, Santa Rosa, Santa Cruz, and Sacramento, strongly oppose the bill due to the chilling effect it will have on economic prospects of those cities. Communications Director for the California Municipal Utilities Association, Medo Eldin, states:

“AB 1520 is unfair because it only targets businesses served by publicly-owned municipal water utilities. If I’m a company looking for a place to locate, I would definitely be concerned that my competitors in jurisdictions served by privately-owned water agencies aren’t having their water usage publicized. It’s simply a competitive disadvantage for businesses served by public water agencies.”

AB 1520 does the following:

  • Penalizes businesses served by municipal water utilities while ignoring the businesses served by 110 private water utilities across the state
  • Provides no limits on frequency of public record requests
  • Causes municipalities to incur costs, which will be passed on to ratepayers

While California values water conservation, AB 1520 is an unfair and ineffective law for tracking water usage. By targeting only those businesses served by municipal water utilities, AB 1520 creates an unfair burden which harms those businesses as well as the cities in which they operate, thereby by creating unintended consequences that could result in job loss and business flight out of California.

It is for these reasons that the California Municipal Utilities Association opposes AB 1520.

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Medo Eldin, Communications Director
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