California Water Legislation Update

On this page are several summaries of recently passed and/or pending California State laws regarding water systems and funding for water related projects. Many of these bills could be very useful for communities and CSDs in our region, so we will keep an eye on them. For more information regarding any of the bills described below, please contact Inyo-Mono IRWMP Staff Member Heather Crall.

Enacted Legislation

 

Sustainable Groundwater Management Act 2014  a presentation given  by Bob. Harrington Oct. 22, 2014 RWMG Meeting Bishop, CA

 Summary:

http://www.acwa.com/content/groundwater/groundwater-sustainability

Senate Bill 244

Summary:

This bill requires cities, counties and LAFCOS (local agency formation commissions or county-wide land use planning groups) to think identify, assess, and plan for the needs of disadvantaged unincorporated communities within their areas. Cities and counties must identify disadvantaged communities, map them, and assess their water, storm water, wastewater and structural fire protection needs during the next update of the Housing Element of their General Plan. LAFCOs must complete similar assessments when next updating their municipal service reviews.

This bill is great in that it asks counties and cities to think specifically about the needs of its most vulnerable communities. Unfortunately, it is also an unfunded mandate, so counties LAFCOs may incur significant additional costs in complying with the new requirements.

To see the full text of this enacted legislation click here: http://leginfo.legislature.ca.gov/faces/billNavClient.xhtml?bill_id=201120120SB244&search_keywords=

To read a more in-depth analysis of the bill’s requirements, click here

Assembly Bill 54

Summary:

This bill updates and adds to the responsibilities and requirements of LAFCOs and mutual water companies with respect to water management. The bill is fairly straightforward, containing provisions directed at LAFCOs and at water companies and water districts, and is not specifically related to disadvantaged communities.

To see the full text of this enacted legislation click here:  http://leginfo.legislature.ca.gov/faces/billNavClient.xhtml?bill_id=201120120AB54&search_keywords=

To read a more in-depth summary of the bills requirements, click here.

 

Pending Legislation

Assembly Bill 115:  Regional Solutions for Clean Drinking Water

Summary:

AB 115 amends the Health and Safety Code to allow multiple small water systems to apply for funding to address drinking water problems as a single applicant given certain conditions are met, thereby making it easier for small, disadvantaged communities to receive state funding to improve regional water quality. Many small, disadvantaged communities in California suffer from problems with contaminated groundwater. However, these same small communities often find it difficult to secure funding to fix groundwater issues due to the complexity of state funding sources, particularly when a regional solution is sought that involves both public and private water systems. AB 115 seeks to address the aforementioned problems, and to encourage water system consolidation, by authorizing the Department of Public Health to fund water related projects from the Safe Drinking Water State Revolving Fund where multiple water systems apply for funding as a single applicant for the purpose of consolidating water systems or extending water services to household relying on private wells.

If passed, this bill could have a substantial long term impact on DACs in the Inyo-Mono Region. There are currently many small water systems and communities relying on private wells that could benefit from regional water quality projects that involve consolidation. Potential limitations on the usefulness of this legislation include that it currently limits potential funding to projects that bring one or more communities into compliance with current state drinking water standards, so it would not apply to other types of water-related consolidation or extension projects. Also, the bill could have limited application in the Inyo-Mono region because many small disadvantaged communities are physically far away from one another, reducing the chances that consolidation would be feasible or make sense.

To see the full text of this bill and follow its progress, click here: http://leginfo.legislature.ca.gov/faces/billNavClient.xhtml?bill_id=201320140AB115&search_keywords=

Assembly Bill 118:  Safe Drinking water State Revolving Fund Cleanup

Summary: AB 118 makes several technical “clean-up” changes to the Safe Drinking Water State Revolving Fund. Among these changes are those that seek to make it easier for severely disadvantaged communities to apply for loans and/or grants for water-related projects from the Fund by modifying some technical parts of the statue to remove some of the common barriers to DAC application for funds. Many of the technical aspects of this bill have little to do with DACs specifically, but the removal of the affordability review would make it easier for small disadvantaged communities to apply for the all-grant funding that is available. Communities will still have to show that they charge rates sufficient to maintain the funded project over the long term.

To see the full text of this bill and follow its progress, click here: http://leginfo.legislature.ca.gov/faces/billNavClient.xhtml?bill_id=201320140AB118&search_keywords=

Assembly Bill 21:  Safe Drinking Water Emergency Grant Fund

Summary:

The Safe Drinking Water Emergency Grant Fund would provide grants to solve urgent drinking water problems in disadvantaged and severely disadvantaged communities. This bill would provide immediate relief to small water systems with a disruption in their potable water supply.

Many communities with real water quality problems pass up the chance for funding from the Safe Drinking Water State Revolving Fund because they cannot meet the strict requirements attached to the funding. AB-21 would create a separate fund for disadvantaged and severely disadvantaged communities with drinking water emergencies. This fund would be created by charging a fee in place of interest on all State Drinking Water Revolving Fund loans. This charge would be placed in a new fund to address drinking water emergencies—a fund without some of the technical requirements of the SDWSRF. If passed, this legislation could provide an immediate and easily accessible funding source for many disadvantaged and severely disadvantaged communities in the Inyo-Mono Region. Communities seeking money would still need to meet the criteria for SDWSRF money in terms of the proposed projects, but would face a much less burdensome and time-consuming application process which could hopefully make accessing some of these funds feasible for disadvantaged communities and small systems.

To see the full text of this bill and follow its progress, click here:  http://leginfo.legislature.ca.gov/faces/billNavClient.xhtml?bill_id=201320140AB21

California Water Bond

The California Legislature is currently in the process of renegotiating the water bond. First drafted in 2009 for inclusion on the 2010 ballot, the water bond asks voters to authorize bond funding totaling $11.14 billion for water infrastructure throughout the state. Polling in 2010 and 2012 indicated that the public would not support the water bond as it was written, due to both the large dollar amount and the extensive earmarks for specific projects contained in the bond language. Due to this lagging voter support, the Legislature delayed voting on the water bond until November 2014, and is now in the process of attempting to draft a workable bond that both addresses the state’s water needs and passes muster with the State’s voters.

As part of the re-imagining of the water bond, in May of 2013 Assembly Speaker John Perez appointed a Water Bond Working Group to both brief other assembly members on state water policy issues, and to identify priorities for California’s water future.  In early July, the Working Group created a set of Proposed Principles for the Development of a Water Bond (the Principles). The Principles are meant to start a statewide discussion among Legislators, constituents and stakeholders regarding the future of water in California and about how Californians will finance necessary water infrastructure. The Principles are meant to be “the beginning of the discussion, not the conclusion.”