SANTA MONICA, CA (Monday, June 30, 2014) -– In a move that will significantly increase local water supplies during a time of extreme drought while also greatly reducing ocean pollution, Gov. Jerry Brown this weekend signed into law a measure that makes it easier for public agencies in California to fund and build projects that capture and reuse stormwater and urban runoff.
AB 2403 clarifies portions of Proposition 218, a 2002 voter initiative that requires public agencies to put fees or rate increases to a public vote. The proposition made a few exceptions, such as water and sewer services. A recent court decision supports the contention that a city council can employ this exception for funding programs that capture urban runoff and stormwater and provide for recharge to the groundwater, thereby being a source of water.
Recognizing that stormwater has become a valuable source of heightened local water supply, AB 2403 formally clarifies the definition of “water” under 218 to include urban runoff and all other potential sources of water. Santa Monica-based Heal the Bay and a broad coalition of other environmental groups supported the measure, which Assemblymember Anthony Rendon authored.
Under the new law, public agencies can now more easily secure funding for multi-benefit projects that capture and infiltrate stormwater for use in recharging groundwater supplies. In the past, agencies would have to take a fee measure to voters, and secure at least two-thirds approval from the general electorate – a high bar to meet. Under the streamlined process in AB 2403, 50% of landowners would have to protest to prevent an agency from imposing a fee.
Urbanized areas of California have the potential to harness nearly half-a-million acre feet of water via stormwater capture each year, according to a recent study by the Natural Resources Defense Council and the Pacific Institute. That’s enough to meet all the water needs of 1 million families for an entire year.
Beyond making it easier to increase local water supplies, AB 2403 will enable agencies to greatly reduce the amount of pollution funneled onto California shorelines each year. Urban runoff remains the No. 1 source of pollution in our oceans and beaches statewide. For example, a single typical day of rainfall spews an estimated 10 billion gallons of runoff into Santa Monica Bay, untreated and unchecked. That's the equivalent of roughly 100 Rose Bowl stadiums’ worth of dirty water.
“After years of working on this issue, Heal the Bay is gratified to see the state treating stormwater as a resource rather than a nuisance,” said Kirsten James, Heal the Bay’s science and policy director for water quality. “We now look forward to working with progressive agencies to implement smart, green infrastructure both here in Los Angeles and statewide.”
“I’m gratified to see bipartisan support for this sensible bill, which will help local communities throughout the state make smart investments in multi-benefit stormwater projects,” said Assemblymember Rendon, whose Los Angeles district encompasses many cities grappling with stormwater issues along the Los Angeles River.
Demonstrating that these types of projects can be both fiscally sound and environmentally effective, cities such as Los Angeles have already invested in a substantial stormwater capture program to replenish their groundwater basins.
Advocates also note that investing in green infrastructure will stimulate the economy and create jobs. At least 120,000 new jobs would be created in the state of California if public investment in stormwater management programs reached levels recommended by the EPA, according to a recent study by Green For All.
About Heal the Bay
Heal the Bay is a nonprofit environmental organization dedicated to making Southern California coastal waters and watersheds, including Santa Monica Bay, safe, healthy and clean. We use research, education, community action and advocacy to pursue our mission.
Contact: Matthew King, Heal the Bay, (310) 451-1500, x 137 or (310) 463-6266 cell