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Water Guardians efforts lead to new bill

By Taylor Engle
La Habra Journal

Laws are normally initiated as bills by government officials. So, it is truly unique when a law is passed because of the hard work of four teenage girls from La Habra. But that’s exactly what happened.

The Water Guardians with Assemblyman Phillip Chen at Washington Middle School.

Assembly Bill AB 1343 was signed by Governor Jerry Brown on July 21, and it encourages a water conservation collaboration between local K-12 schools and water suppliers.

Assemblyman Phillip Chen introduced the bill. It aims to reduce water usage in schools, storm water and dry weather runoff, school pollution, and educate students about water conservation.

However, Chen wasn’t the originator of the bill. The bill was first proposed to Chen by the “La Habra Water Guardians,” Four girls, Angelique Dequit, Jessica Gallegos, Fiona Paredes, and Skye Lim.

The group of ambitious young teens raised enough money through a school dance and by the help of sponsors to travel to the state Capitol and propose the bill.

The group created a conservation plan as a school project at Washington Middle School in 2015, which won statewide praise and national recognition.

The girls are currently attending Sonora High School, but are still committed to their environmental efforts and are excited to see the water saving measures being implemented statewide.

“AB 1343 helps make water conservation an important part of our education,” Dequit said.

The project allowed for drought-tolerant gardens at the school location. The group also replaced old toilets with more conservative, newer models.

“Water is vital to California. From the water we use to drink, shower, grow our crops, to water used to generate electricity at our dams, our future success is dependent on it. Many cities and utilities are providing rebates for residents that install drought-tolerant plants or water efficient fixtures like toilets and washing machines,” Chen said.

Chen’s office had to work a lot with the Assembly’s Education Committee to ensure the language of the bill was approved of. The bill had to go through Assembly Education, Assembly Environmental Safety and Toxics Material Committee the Senate Education and Senate Environmental Quality Committees before it could be passed.

Through meeting with water districts to help foster their relationships with school districts, Chen learned about a lot of incentive programs that aren’t being utilized enough by the schools.

“We need to make sure that the community and the school districts are educated on water conservation and the programs that are available,” Chen said.

Although there is still much more to be done to help with the state’s drought, this bill is a good beginning to a more conscious future when it comes to water conservation.

“I think that this bill is a great start in helping get the conversation going with school districts and water districts,” Chen said. “I do believe that this bill is just a start and there is more that can be done on water conservation efforts and I look forward to working on this issue in the future.”

When asked whether or not a water conservation bill would have been considered without the help of the Guardians, Chen responded, “Water conservation is an important topic that definitely needs to be addressed, I am glad that the Water Guardians brought their idea to my attention so I could help them achieve their goal.”

“We want to create a future for our community and state where we have a plentiful water supply and all citizens are better prepared with water conservation skills for life,” Lim said.

Started in 1995, the La Habra Journal is an independent community news source serving the cities of La Habra and La Habra Heights.