Remarks by Vice President Harris During Tour of a Water Treatment Plant
Upper San Leandro Water Treatment Plant
THE VICE PRESIDENT: Hi, guys. So, listen, it is great to be in Oakland and to be home. But it’s great to be here at East Bay MUD. This facility and this group have been doing work that really is a model for the country of what we do in terms of, one, acknowledging, as we have discussed, water as a right. And it is obviously a precious resource. It sustains life in every form — be it human life, be it agricultural life — and we know it is precious.
There were, you know, for years and generations and centuries, wars fought over oil. I would suggest too, in a short matter of time, wars will be fought over water. We must understand how precious this resource is. We must understand the equities and inequities of distribution and access to clean water — especially clean drinking water — and address it in a way that is about supporting what governments must do at a local, at a state, and at a federal level.
Understanding the opportunities here — and this is a part of a big part of the American Jobs Plan, which is the opportunity not only to build back up our infrastructure around water and water policy being diverse. It’s about capture of water, storage of water — underground storage. There’s recycling, there’s conservation, there’s desalination. All of these things are part of water policy.
But the American Jobs Plan looks at it in terms of the infrastructure piece and, in particular, what we need to do to build back up and to build anew; what we can do to preserve and to make sure all people have access to clean water and affordable water.
And so that is what we are doing with the American Jobs Plan. Part of our reason for being here, too, when we were with Angela Blackwell, is the issue of water equity. Whether you’re talking about Iowa, where I’ve spent a lot of time, and places in the Midwest, where people have wells in their backyard and sewage systems on their property — it is on their property; it is theirs, but it is eroding, and they don’t have the resources to actually upgrade and make it safe — and so part of our policy is to say: Give grants, give support to homeowners to be able to upgrade their systems — because, of course, this is a public health issue.
We are looking at it in terms of places like Flint, the Mississippi Delta, places where our children throughout this country — and the Governor could talk about it in terms of California — where children are drinking toxic water, and what we must do, PFAS, and what we must do in terms of lead.
The American Jobs Plan is about saying, let us — 100 percent of our lead systems and lead pipes — let’s upgrade them. Why? Because drinking lead will kill our children, literally. And so we have to acknowledge the public health issue but also, again, see the opportunity in upgrading these systems and fixing and repairing the system to create jobs.
So we met with a couple of folks who have been in the apprenticeship programs that is part of what the American Jobs Plan will create — apprenticeship programs, where we partner up with the building trades, the pipe fitters, the plumbers, the electricians, the carpenters, understanding they have some of the best apprenticeship programs in our country to build up the skills of the American workforce to get these jobs, which are good union jobs, good-paying union jobs.
So that’s why we’re here today: to highlight the great work that is happening. I want to thank the whole team. And I especially want to thank the Governor. He and I have worked together for a long time. We were elected to our first office at the same time back in 2003. And one of the things I know about Gavin Newsom is he has always been a champion about what we need to do around our environment. And he and I have had many conversations over the years in particular about the preservation of water.
And so I’m just so happy that you have been able to join us, Governor. And I want to give you an opportunity to speak and talk about some of the work you’re doing
GOVERNOR NEWSOM: I appreciate it. I’ll be brief. It’s just — it’s an honor to have the Vice President here. And, as you can hear, you don’t need to educate the Vice President on water policy. And what a gift that is for us, particularly out here in the State of California, as we are now going through another annual rite of passage, which is the annual snowpack survey.
And as you saw last week, just 59 percent of average. This is the second dry year in this state. We came out of a five-year drought, and we had a short respite. And now that reality has presented itself anew. All of these things are connected: water infrastructure, water policy, issues related to drought.
And, by the way, drought is by no means an issue just for California. Seventy-seven percent of the West Coast of the United States is now in what they refer to as “mega-drought” conditions. This is profoundly significant for this country and particularly the west.
And this job recovery act, this America recovery act, this infrastructure effort is — and forgive me, I know we’re prone to hyperbole — it’s a game-changer, to complement the efforts that are happening at the local level; to address the needs here in the East Bay, a system that was designed in the 1930s that needs investment, needs upgrade.
We talk a lot about infrastructure. We have the ability to deliver on it. And for the Vice President to be here, to be delivering not only a package for consideration to Congress, but be delivering on the priorities that we hold dear here in the State of California is extraordinary.
So, Madam Vice President, thank you for being here. And it’s a tremendous opportunity for this state and our nation. We have your back, and we’re all in on supporting this effort.
THE VICE PRESIDENT: Thank you, Governor.