Legislative Session Ends With Major Water-Focused Bills Pushed to Next Year

September 15 marked the final day of the legislative session in California. Throughout 2017, the Regional Water Authority (RWA) worked to shape legislation believed to be critical to the Sacramento region’s economy and quality of life. Here is an update on two high-priority bills have been pushed to the next session.

Permanent Water Conservation

During the year, RWA worked with a broad coalition of water suppliers, associations and business groups from throughout California to develop and then help shape legislation for implementing the Governor’s framework for “Making Water Conservation a California Way of Life” and its objectives of establishing new water use targets for urban retail water suppliers and enhancing drought preparation and reporting requirements.

RWA co-sponsored Assembly Bills 968 and 1654 authored by Assemblymember Blanca Rubio to promote a water-industry supported approach, but legislation related to long-term water conservation standards took several forms and turns, ultimately moving forward in AB 1668 (Friedman) and SB 606 (Hertzberg/Skinner/Friedman) in the final month of the session. RWA and coalition members worked intensely to help shape these bills, but major flaws remained. Chief among them was a proposal to grant the State Water Resources Control Board authority to adopt a variety of enforceable water use standards, including those for outdoor residential use. This unprecedented authority for state agencies has the potential for negative impacts on water rates, community greenspaces and local business.

RWA will continue to work to help develop sensible approaches to improving water use efficiency and enhancing drought planning and preparation. You can learn more about RWA’s position on long-term water conservation here.

Public Goods Charge on Water

SB 623 (Monning) was amended in the final month of the session to include a tax on residential water bills. While RWA and local water providers support the bill’s intent, which is to fund safe drinking water solutions for disadvantaged communities, a tax on Californians’ water bills is not the solution. A tax would further hamper local efforts to maintain safe and reliable water infrastructure at a reasonable price for all customers, including those low-income customers within our own water service areas. You can read RWA’s policy position related to a Public Goods Charge on Water here.