Hertzberg Aims to Guarantee Affordable Drinking Water, Improve Conservation with New Bills
A constitutional amendment will allow water agencies to provide discounted rates to the poor, higher rates for big users
SACRAMENTO – Sen. Bob Hertzberg, D-Van Nuys, introduced a constitutional amendment today that will help California better manage water by allowing agencies to adjust their rates to encourage conservation and provide discounts to people struggling to pay their water bills.
In addition, Hertzberg introduced legislation changing state law so projects designed to capture and clean stormwater can be more easily financed by local agencies. The two bills are part of Hertzberg’s efforts to more intelligently plan for a future in which California’s water supplies will be strained by climate change, continuing cycles of drought and a growing population.
“Water is California’s most precious resource, and we must manage it more wisely,” Hertzberg said. “These bills will give water agencies the tools they need to guarantee every Californian has access to safe affordable water. They will encourage conservation and allow us to build more projects to efficiently manage stormwater.”
Up to 3 million Californians struggle to pay their water bills, and local agencies in disadvantaged communities have few ways of assisting them. Under current law, water agencies may only charge users exactly the cost of providing the water they use, no more and no less.
SCA 4 ensures local governments can discount rates for low-income Californians and charge higher rates to the biggest users of water to discourage excessive consumption. Such pricing is already commonplace for other utilities, such as electricity.
Although access to safe, clean, drinkable water is considered a basic human necessity, millions of Californians today either cannot afford safe drinking water or do not have access to it. The cost of water is on the rise, and that is hurting disadvantaged communities across the state.
“We’ve all read about Flint, Michigan,” Hertzberg said. “The truth is California is full of communities with similar problems, and in 2017 that is completely unacceptable.”
Hertzberg’s other bill, SB 231, adds a missing definition of “sewer service” to state law to include stormwater, so local governments can more easily finance and build those projects. Stormwater is a key source of local water supply and careful management is needed to reduce pollution, but currently stormwater and flood control programs must meet a higher standard than other water services to raise funds, preventing many important projects from being built.
“Appallingly, 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,” Hertzberg said. “We need to do everything possible to encourage projects that capture that water, instead of wasting it.”
SB 231 also amends state law to clarify the authority of cities, counties and local water agencies by providing direction on the interpretation of Proposition 218, while maintaining the proposition’s transparency and accountability guidelines. Voters approved the proposition in 1996.
Court interpretations of the proposition have hampered the development of stormwater projects. The legislation is sponsored by the Water Foundation, a non-profit that works on water policy reform.
“For too long, we have treated the rain that falls on our cities as a problem that fouls our streams and beaches with pollution and threatens our homes with flooding,” said Wade Crowfoot, CEO of the Water Foundation. “We must shift our thinking and treat this stormwater as a valuable asset. By upgrading local infrastructure to capture, treat and reuse this valuable water source, local governments will reduce pollution and flood vulnerability and increase recharge of local groundwater supplies. We thank Senator Hertzberg for his leadership on this issue.”
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
Senator Robert M. Hertzberg
Capitol Building, Room 4038
Sacramento, CA 95814