Hertzberg Introduces Bill to Boost Water Supplies, Improve Management

SB 1298 provides options for local governments to set reasonable water rates and changes law to help finance stormwater projects

June 13, 2016

SACRAMENTO – Sen. Bob Hertzberg, D-Van Nuys, today introduced legislation to safeguard California’s water supplies by giving local governments more authority to finance local water projects and set reasonable rates.  

“California’s ongoing drought has challenged us to better manage our water supplies, both how we capture it and how we consume it,” Hertzberg said. “This legislation makes important adjustments in the law so water agencies can fund more projects boosting water supply and adjust rates intelligently and fairly.”

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.

Stormwater is a key source of local water supply, and careful management is needed to reduce pollution. But presently, stormwater and flood control programs must meet a higher standard than other water services to raise funds, preventing many important projects from being built.

SB 1298 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 and raised doubt about whether water agencies can reduce rates for low-income Californians or increase rates to encourage conservation.

A recent court decision blocked local agencies from charging the largest water users more per gallon to discourage consumption. In addition, it is unclear under Proposition 218 whether local governments can reduce water rates for low-income households, even though private water utilities are required to offer this kind of assistance.

The legislation is sponsored by the Water Foundation, a non-profit that works on water policy reform. 

“Our five-year drought has highlighted weaknesses in the way California manages water, and revealed a woeful lack of investment in water infrastructure,” said Andrew Fahlund, deputy director of the Water Foundation. “Local agencies pay for 85 percent of the water spending in the state, but unintended consequences of laws passed in the 1990s have tied their hands in a number of critical areas.”


Bob Hertzberg, chair of the Senate Committee on Governance and Finance, 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.

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