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Water Bills on Hold Until 2018

Two identical bills with the goal of enacting the statutory authority to implement the Governor’s New Water Plan, “Making Water Conservation a Way Of Life,” stalled in the last days before the California Legislature adjourned for this year. These bills are now considered two-year bills that can be taken up again during the 2018 legislative session.

The bills, AB 1668 and SB 606, were opposed by a broad coalition of water suppliers, associations and business groups from throughout California. Of major concern to CPSA is that these bills provided the State Water Resources Control Board (SWRCB) with unprecedented authority to adopt a variety of enforceable water use standards, including specifically those for outdoor water use.

Up until 2016, every Californian had the ability to do with their backyard landscaping as they wished. AB 1668 and SB 606 would apply the principles of the Model Water Efficient Landscape Ordinance (MWELO) retroactively to all residential backyards by limiting the ability of local water agencies to provide more water than what it takes to efficiently meet these standards. It would be like only allowing 1.6 gallons of water to flush a toilet designed to use 3 gallons or more.  Worse yet, the SWRCB would have the ability to enforce these standards through issuing cease and desist orders to local water districts and suppliers.

Swimming pools and spas are currently included in MWELO, however there is no enforcement at the local building department level as there are ongoing stakeholder meetings to try to figure out a simple way to apply the standards set forth in the ordinance. CPSA is participating in these meetings to ensure that the construction of swimming pools and spas are not endangered in the application of this ordinance. AB 1668 and SB 606 would provide another layer of regulation, and it is not clear at all how swimming pools and spas would be regulated. Both bills contained a specific provision that there be regulations applicable to swimming pools and spas, to be decided at some future date. Neither the ordinance nor the bills provide water credits for the amount of land the construction of swimming pools and spas and their surrounds take out of ever having to be irrigated in the future, or any consideration for pool covers or other water conservation devises installed by homeowners, something advocated by CPSA.

CPSA has scheduled meetings with state water officials to explore these topics and more over the legislative interim recess. The association has also retained water consultants and legal assistance in pursuing these efforts to protect the future of the industry in California.

The legislature also deferred action on a bill introduced late in the session to impose a water tax in California. This tax would be used to fund clean water initiatives in disadvantaged communities, and would be paid for by all business and residential users, except agriculture who would pay a fertilizer or dairy fee. The bill is expected to raise $100,000,000 annually for such purposes. Most Californian’s believe they already fund such improvements as a result of paying their monthly water bill, but government always wants more…

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