top of page

Protecting Public Health: California's Bold Move Against Hexavalent Chromium in Drinking Water

Protecting Public Health: California's Bold Move Against Hexavalent Chromium in Drinking Water

In a groundbreaking move aimed at safeguarding the health of over 5 million Californians, state regulators have set a new standard for drinking water quality, specifically targeting hexavalent chromium, a notorious cancer-causing contaminant. This landmark decision by the State Water Resources Control Board marks the nation's first formal regulation on this toxic compound, reflecting a critical step forward in water safety standards.

Hexavalent chromium, famously portrayed in the film "Erin Brockovich," has long plagued California's water supplies, with its presence reported statewide. The compound, found both naturally and through industrial contamination, poses significant health risks, including cancer, when consumed beyond permissible limits.

Understanding the Implications

Under the new standard, water suppliers are mandated to limit hexavalent chromium to no more than 10 parts per billion, a stringent measure designed to ensure public safety. While hailed as a crucial step in protecting public health, the implementation of this standard comes at a significant cost. Water systems across California anticipate annual expenditures of approximately $180 million for compliance measures, including testing and treatment protocols.

Addressing Economic Challenges

Concerns have been raised regarding the financial burden of compliance, particularly for low-income communities. City officials and water agencies emphasize the disproportionate impact on economically vulnerable residents, highlighting the urgent need for state assistance. For instance, Coachella City Councilman Frank Figueroa underscores the staggering costs faced by his community, where the installation of treatment facilities could result in a nearly 500% increase in average monthly bills—a figure deemed unsustainable for many residents.

Advocating for Support

Amidst financial constraints, calls for state aid resonate strongly among water suppliers grappling with the complexities of compliance. Tim Worley, managing director of the Community Water Systems Alliance, emphasizes the need for comprehensive support mechanisms, especially during times of fiscal strain.

A Commitment to Public Health

Despite the challenges, California's decision reflects a steadfast commitment to prioritizing public health. By setting a precedent for regulatory action, the state aims to protect millions of residents from the adverse health effects of hexavalent chromium exposure.

Looking Ahead

As the largest water suppliers face a two-year compliance timeline and smaller entities are granted four years, the path forward necessitates collaboration and flexibility. Andrea Abergel, manager of water policy for the California Municipal Utilities Association, underscores the need for adaptable strategies to accommodate diverse community needs.

California's pioneering initiative to regulate hexavalent chromium in drinking water underscores a proactive approach to public health protection. While the road ahead may pose challenges, the state's unwavering commitment to water quality serves as a beacon of progress in safeguarding the well-being of its residents. As the nation observes this historic development, the collective efforts of regulators, water suppliers, and advocacy groups reaffirm the paramount importance of prioritizing public health in policymaking.


By CalMatters| Rachel Becker (April 17, 2024). California sets nation’s first water standard for cancer-causing contaminant


Commenting has been turned off.
bottom of page