Hertzberg bill will make it easier for local governments and agencies to treat and reuse stormwater, incentivize water conservation, and assist low income water users
June 14, 2016 – With California’s historic drought still ongoing, State Senator Robert M. Hertzberg yesterday introduced SB 1298 (“Sustainable Funding for Local Water Agencies Act”), which if passed will gives cities, counties and local water agencies broader authority to finance local water projects and programs. Specifically, SB 1298 adds a missing definition of “sewer service” that includes stormwater, so local governments can more easily finance and build those projects. The bill also provides options for water agencies to develop rates that low-income households can afford and that encourage users to conserve.
“We’re thrilled Senator Hertzberg has introduced SB 1298 at this time,” noted Sara Aminzadeh, Executive Director for the California Coastkeeper Alliance (CCKA). “With much of California still in drought, this common-sense legislation will help facilitate greater water conservation as well as the capture, treatment and reuse of stormwater to enhance regional water security while reducing contaminated runoff from polluting our waters.”
SB 1298 is needed in light of recent conflicting legal decisions relating to the application of Proposition 218 (an initiative passed in 1996 that requires voter approval of many local taxes and fees) to certain types of water fees. This uncertainty has led many water agencies to abandon programs aimed at promoting conservation or lifeline pricing or building stormwater capture projects.
“While Prop 218 provides valuable accountability and transparency requirements for local governments, in the water arena it has resulted in policies where lower-income consumers essentially subsidize water wasters, and where local governments cannot raise needed funds to protect local communities from stormwater pollution, flooding or drought,” added Community Water Center’s co-Executive Director Laurel Firestone. “Importantly, SB 1298 maintains the underlying ratepayer protection requirements of Prop 218 while clarifying some ambiguities in the law that have led to conflicting court decisions and made it virtually impossible for local water agencies to manage water sustainably and equitably.”
By explicitly authorizing conservation pricing and lifeline rates for lower income Californians, SB 1298 would allow public water agencies to do what is already recognized as best practice for water agencies throughout the world, and what private water purveyors and other types of utilities in California, such as electric companies, are encouraged or even required to do.
Added Heal the Bay’s Vice President Sarah Sikich, “We appreciate Senator Hertzberg’s leadership on this critical issue, and we hope his efforts make California a global leader on sustainable and equitable water management.”
The California Water Partnership, which is made up of American Rivers, California Coastkeeper Alliance, Clean Water Action, Community Water Center, Heal the Bay, the Natural Resources Defense Council and Los Angeles Waterkeeper, is dedicated to securing a sustainable and equitable water future for California. The partnership advocates for adoption and implementation of the principles and practices of integrated water management. Our work ensures that water management practices benefit our public health, our environment and all Californians.