President’s Message—Legislative Summary 2016

The Orange County Water District’s legislative team was successful in protecting many of the interests of the District and its 19 groundwater producers leading to the development of new state and federal water-related legislation and policies.

In 2016, OCWD reviewed 2,331 California state legislative bills, 70 state and 12 federal measures that directly impacted the District.  This included legislation addressing water supply, water quality, groundwater management, greywater, federal funding of grants and low-interest loans, drought resiliency, water infrastructure, and regulatory reform initiatives. 

In terms of state matters, OCWD successfully co-sponsored Assembly Bill AB 2022 (Richard Gordon, D-Menlo Park) with the Orange County Sanitation District and the WateReuse Association, California Chapter. Authored by Assemblymember Gordon, the new law allows for the bottling of advanced purified water for educational purposes. 

The District also gained favorable amendments to the sustainable Groundwater Management Act SB 1317 (Lois Wolk, D-Davis) and AB 260 Greywater (Susan Talamantes Eggman, D-Stockton).

On the federal front, the completion of the Prado Ecosystem Feasibility Study continued to be a priority for the District. As part of this activity, OCWD met with members of Congress and their staff and senior officials of key federal agencies to discuss the District’s request to allow temporary stormwater capture behind Prado Dam to a higher elevation. These discussions served to facilitate Washington, D.C. meetings with senior U.S. Army Corps of Engineers officials to ensure that completion of ongoing studies would continue to be a priority within the federal program.

Feinstein and GreenAs part of OCWD’s commitment to advance sound and cost-effective water resources policies to address drought, meetings with Representatives Mimi Walters (R-Irvine), Dana Rohrabacher (R-Huntington Beach), Ed Royce (R-Fullerton), Alan Lowenthal (D-Long Beach), Ken Calvert (R-Corona) and Senators Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) [shown at left] and Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.) were convened regarding Water Resources Development Act amendments, which were incorporated into S. 612.

President Barack Obama just this week signed this new comprehensive water resources bill, also known as the Water Infrastructure Improvements for the Nation Act (WIIN). This historic legislation, which includes elements from the Water Resources Development Act (WRDA), will authorize California drought relief, provide aid to address lead contaminated drinking water, and will provide over $10 billion in flood control, navigation, beach re-nourishment, and environmental restoration projects. The WIIN Act will deliver critical support to OCWD's efforts to safeguard the region's limited water supplies and to develop sustainable and innovative solutions to mitigate the drought's impacts to north and central Orange County.

We also met with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (USEPA) to ask for their help to protect the State Revolving Loan Fund.

Looking ahead to 2017, OCWD has already determined some of the policies that it will closely follow:

  • Funding for groundwater cleanup, expansion of GWRS, and other projects through Proposition 1 (Water Bond) funds
  • Increasing the cap in Proposition 1 for desalination projects from $5 million to $15 million
  • Protecting the District from legislation that could possibly change our District Act
  • Advocating that the State Board develop guidelines for Direct Potable Reuse (DPR)
  • Opposing a public goods charge/water tax. OCWD is currently monitoring SB 20 (Fran Pavley, D-Agoura Hills), which proposes to establish a new tax on customers’ water bills, in the upcoming legislative session
  • Maximizing water stored behind Prado Dam for future recharge in the groundwater basin
  • Maintaining the separable costs of temporarily storing water behind the dam with the United States Army Corps of Engineers
  • Maximizing the federal funding for California State Revolving Funds (SRF)
  • Unreasonable discharge of wastewater into the ocean SB 163 (Robert Hertzberg, D-Van Nuys)

In conclusion the District reviews legislative matters primarily at its Communications/Legislative Affairs Committee meeting, normally held the first Thursday of every month at 8 a.m.  Members of the public are welcome to attend. For more information, please visit OCWD’s legislative program webpage.