Press Release

Legislation to Boost Stormwater Capture Passes Assembly, Goes to the Governor

SB 231 makes it easier for local agencies to finance projects capturing stormwater to reuse it, instead of letting the water run off and go to waste

August 31, 2017

SACRAMENTO – Legislation by Sen. Bob Hertzberg, D-Van Nuys, clarifying the definition of stormwater so that projects designed to capture and clean stormwater can be more easily financed and built by local agencies today passed the Assembly.

SB 231 has already been approved by the Senate and now goes to Gov. Jerry Brown for his consideration. The Assembly passed the bill on a 41-26 vote.

SB 231 is part of Hertzberg’s strategy to better manage water supplies as California’s water continues to be strained by climate change, continuing cycles of drought and a steadily growing population. In recent years, as California suffered through a punishing five-year drought, awareness has grown about the importance of recycling and reusing water and the damage done by polluted water runoff. 

“This legislation is basic common sense. It clarifies that local agencies should have the same authority to capture and treat all dirty water, no matter what its source,” Hertzberg said. “We must do a better job of capturing stormwater, and California must manage its water more wisely. SB 231 will help do that.”

The legislation provides legal clarity on the interpretation of Proposition 218 while maintaining the proposition’s transparency and accountability guidelines. Voters approved the proposition in 1996.   

SB 231 adds a missing definition of “sewer service” to state law to include stormwater, which was long considered to be part of that definition until a court decision cast doubt on that interpretation 15 years ago. The measure allows local governments to finance and build projects that capture and clean stormwater just as easily as they can finance and build needed sewer facilities.

Although the state experienced heavy rainfall over the winter, much of the water flowed into the ocean. Only about 15 percent of the stormwater flowing into the Los Angeles River watershed is captured and used for water supply while the rest is dumped into the ocean, a loss of billions of gallons of water each year.

Furthermore, rainfall produced flooding and extensive damage in many parts of the state with no infrastructure in place to capture or redirect the water.

One reason local agencies don’t have more infrastructure in place to control flooding and capture stormwater is because of legal confusion over the definition of stormwater, Hertzberg explained in an op-ed published in the Los Angeles Daily News in April.  

The bill is sponsored by the Water Foundation.

"State lawmakers are doing their part to protect communities across California by passing SB 231, which enables local infrastructure investment that captures stormwater,” said Wade Crowfoot, CEO of the Water Foundation. “These investments will protect homes from local flooding, reduce water pollution in our streams and beaches, and increase local groundwater supplies. It is a common sense step that will create jobs and spur local investment in these important improvements."

The legislation is also supported by more than 100 organizations and local governments, including the Bay Area Council, California Building Industry Association, California State Association of Counties, Environmental Defense Fund, Heal the Bay, League of California Cities, League of Women Voters of California, Los Angeles County, Metropolitan Water District of Southern California, Monterey Bay Aquarium, Save the Bay, Service Employees International Union California, Sierra Club California and State Building and Construction Trades Council of California. 

“SB 231 is an important step forward to bringing California’s water system into the 21st century,” said Jim Wunderman, president and CEO of the Bay Area Council. “Capturing and treating stormwater would not only reduce pollution runoff into our rivers and coastline, but improve regional water supply sustainability for generations to come.”

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Bob Hertzberg, chair of the Senate Committee on Natural Resources and Water, represents nearly 1 million San Fernando Valley residents of Senate District 18, which includes part of Burbank and the following communities in Los Angeles: Arleta, Granada Hills, Hansen Dam, Lake View Terrace, Mission Hills, North Hills, North Hollywood, part of Northridge, Pacoima, Panorama City, Sherman Oaks, Studio City, part of Sun Valley, Sylmar, Toluca Lake, Valley Glen, Valley Village, Van Nuys, the City of San Fernando and Universal City. See a district map at http://sd18.senate.ca.gov/district.  After serving in the Assembly from 1996-2002, including two years as Speaker, Hertzberg invested in solar, wind and electric-car projects; and worked for structural changes in government through the Think Long Committee of California. Learn more at www.senate.ca.gov/hertzberg.

MEDIA CONTACT: Andrew LaMar
Communications Director
Senator Robert M. Hertzberg
Capitol Building, Room 4038
Sacramento, CA 95814
(916) 651-4018

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