California Takes a Major Step Forward with Water Management Bill
SB 231 Brings Clarity to Funding Storm Water Recycling Initiatives
On October 6, Governor Jerry Brown signed pivotal legislation that will help cities across California capture, clean and manage billions of gallons of storm water annually.
Senator Bob Hertzberg (D-Van Nuys) introduced SB 231 earlier this year as part of his plan to modernize California’s water resources. The need loomed large after a punishing drought—coupled with the state’s growing population.
Currently, only about 15% of the storm water that flows into the Los Angeles River watershed is captured for water supply, leaving billions of gallons unused each year. Many cities without infrastructure to capture or redirect water end up badly damaged. San Jose, for example, incurred $73 million in flood losses this February 2017 alone.
Among its many advantages, SB 231 clearly defines storm water capture projects under California law. The bill affirms that sewer water does include storm water—a previously murky issue that kept some cities from funding any storm water projects.
The new legislation also provides legal clarity under an interpretation of Proposition 218, the 1996 initiative that identifies which government fees and taxes require voter approval. Proposition 218 specifically exempts certain essential services, such as water, trash and sewer, from the voter requirement. Still, property owners may block a fee increase if it’s protested by a majority.
Sponsored by The Water Foundation and supported by more than 100 organizations and local governments, SB 231 will go into effect on January 1, 2018. "With the governor’s signature, California’s cities and counties are on their way toward a safer, more resilient future,” said Wade Crowfoot, CEO of the Water Foundation.
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