Press Release

Hertzberg Unveils Legislation to Stop Dumping Treated Water into the Ocean

SB 163 takes aim at a common practice that wastes billions of gallons of usable water throughout the state every single day

June 13, 2016

SACRAMENTO – Sen. Bob Hertzberg, D-Van Nuys, unveiled legislation today to stop the wasteful dumping of treated water into the ocean and instead find ways to reuse the water as part of efforts to better manage the precious resource during California’s historic drought.

SB 163 requires agencies that dump treated water to come up with plans on how to beneficially reuse the water and sets a goal of reusing half of the discharged water within a decade of the agencies submitting their plans.

“California’s drought has forced us to rethink everything we do with water and consider how to be more intelligent in how we manage it,” Hertzberg said. “This legislation is a no-brainer. Let’s find a way to reuse treated water instead of dumping it into the ocean. We have to stop thinking of treated water as a waste product – it’s a valuable resource to be utilized.”

California discharges an estimated 1.5 billion gallons of treated water – the equivalent of 18 Rose Bowls filled with water – into the ocean every day. In Los Angeles County alone, 650 million gallons of treated water goes into the Pacific daily.

This is water that has been used once and flows from homes and businesses through drains, pipes and water treatment centers, where the water is purified to meet federal standards and is nearly clean enough to drink. Instead of wasting the water, it could be used for irrigation, recharging groundwater or other important purposes.

The bill is supported by the California Coastal Protection Network, California League of Conservation Voters, Heal the Bay, the Natural Resources Defense Council and the Sierra Club.

“Each day, wastewater treatment plants send hundreds of millions of gallons of highly treated water into the ocean. This inefficient practice is not good for ocean health, and it’s certainly not helping us combat drought,” said Sarah Sikich, vice president for Heal the Bay. “SB 163 will greatly increase the amount of water recycled throughout the state, and greatly benefit the Los Angeles region where we rely heavily on imported water.”

The bill requires wastewater permit holders to submit plans by 2023 to reuse treated wastewater, to the maximum extent possible, that would otherwise be discharged into the ocean or a bay, and they must reuse at least 50 percent at all facilities by 2033. The bill directs the State Water Resources Control Board to consider convening an advisory group to develop recommendations and regulations to achieve the goal.

“It’s clear that recycled water has a significant place in California’s plan to be more drought-resistant and self-reliant,” said Steve Fleischli, water program director for the Natural Resources Defense Council. “But our current, voluntary program isn’t getting us close enough to meeting water recycling targets. Sen. Hertzberg’s bill could change that and make recycled water a reality for all of California. It’s a cost-effective and smart solution to California’s ongoing water challenges.”

SB 163 is part of a package of bills Sen. Hertzberg has authored to use natural resources more wisely and cope with changes brought by climate change and a punishing drought.

Hertzberg’s  SB 919 requires the state to better coordinate its power by directing excess renewable energy that can occur during the middle of the day toward water agencies that recycle or purify water. SB 1298 makes changes in state law to help local governments finance stormwater projects and provides options for water agencies to develop different rates to encourage conservation.

"Recycling wastewater from coastal outfalls,” said Kyle Jones, water policy advocate for Sierra Club California, “is a smart way to create new water supplies without harming the environment. Sen. Hertzberg's bill will help get more water recycling projects going while keeping a regulatory process in place to make these projects safe." 


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  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

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