Legislative Engagement

The Orange County Water District has a legislative team to protect the interests of the District and its 19 groundwater producers and to proactively lead the development of new state and federal water-related legislation and policies. Below is a collection of some of OCWD’s recent projects and their status.


With regard to state legislative activities, the Association of California Water Agencies’ (ACWA) Region 10 Legislative Committee has met six times so far this year.

The top policy issues and legislation OCWD has been working on include the following:

Just this week:  The Governor issued an executive order (B-37-16) for long-term water conservation regulations.

Building on the temporary state-water emergency water conservation mandate of 25 percent for urban water use, the Governor this week issued an executive order for long-term water conservation regulations requiring the State Water Resources Control Board (SWRCB) and Department of Water Resources (DWR) to develop by January 2017 new water efficiency targets to be specific for each water supplier, go beyond the 20 percent per capita urban water use by 2020 that was included in the SBX-7X7, and will be customized to fit each water supplier. 

Water targets will be customized to the unique conditions of each water agency, generate more statewide water conservation than existing requirements and based on standards for: (1) indoor residential per capita water use, (2) outdoor irrigation, in a manner that incorporates landscape area, local climate, new satellite imagery data, (3) commercial, industrial, and institutional water use; and, (4) water lost through leaks.

The State Board and DWR are also to prioritize loan funding from the Drinking Water State Revolving fund for local projects to repair leaks.

AB 2202 (Gordon) Bottling Purified Water  — Co-sponsor
WateReuse, Orange County Water District and Orange County Sanitation District are co-sponsors of this legislation that would allow the bottling of advanced purified demonstration drinking water for educational purposes to promote water reuse. Status: AB 2022 successfully moved through the Assembly with full support and no opposition, and is headed to the Senate.  It is referred to Senate Environmental Quality committee which will most likely take the bill up this June. 

Water Markets:

There are two bills dealing with water markets, AB 1755 Dodd, AB 2304 Levine, that are seemingly amended daily. The Dodd legislation focuses on transparency of information. The Levine bill sets up a water market exchange in the Natural Resource Agency.  ACWA Agencies have proposed a list of amendments and have seen some of the requested amendments in the bills, but are still working on the legislation.

Sustainable Groundwater Management Act Implementation:

The Department of Water Resources posted its revised regulations for groundwater sustainability plans on May 9. They are less rigid than the previous draft after concerns noted by ACWA and others.  It is anticipated that the Water Commission will then most likely approve the regulations on May 18 and on June 1 the State Water Resources Control Board would then certify them.

Proposition 1:

Water Storage $2.7 Billion. The California Water Commission is now writing regulations for water storage funding quantification – how the applications should be submitted and the evaluation regulations for awarding grants.  Look for draft regulations in June and their adoption by the deadline this December. (Groundwater storage is an eligible use with the challenge of accounting for less demands of imported water.)

Water Recycling Funding $625 Million ($100 million for desalination projects). As of this April, approximately $72 million in grants is in contract and $350 million in in-complete applications has been received by the State Water Resources Control Board.

Protect flows to existing reuse infrastructure. During OCWD’s Region 10 legislative calls, staff noticed a recurring theme with bills promoting or requiring onsite capture of greywater (AB 1738, Kevin McCarty) and onsite treated water for residential or commercial buildings (AB 1463, Mike Gatto). OCWD proposed to the ACWA legislative committee to take a general perspective to amend legislation impacting flows to advanced purified water facilities or recycling facilities through greywater and/or other similar legislation to be flexible enough to consider local conditions where there is already an investment in water recycling facilities.

SB 814 (Jerry Hill) — Watch
OCWD is interested in this bill, which, during a drought, would have water providers define excessive water use and impose a penalty for this excessive use. On SB 814, ACWA has an Oppose Unless Amended position. 

The amendments are to clarify that non-payment of a fine need not mirror the process for non-payment of a water bill, require both a local and statewide declaration of drought before excessive use provisions would take effect, provide a water “traffic school” as an alternative to a fine, and include financial hardship as a reasonable justification for appealing a fine.

SB 163 (Bob Hertzberg) — Watch
This bill mandates wastewater treatment facilities to achieve 100 percent recycling by 2036 of outfalls going to the ocean.  While this bill promotes water reuse, the mandate and level of recycling is at a significant cost and may not be achievable.  ACWA has a “not favor” position and is working with a coalition of other public agency stakeholders such as WateReuse to oppose the mandate in the bill or turn it into something that would be more acceptable to water districts.

SB 885 (Lois Wolk) — Watch
This bill would exempt design professionals from having to defend contractors in claims or lawsuits related to negligence.  SB 885 was heard in Senate Judiciary this week and was passed out. It is opposed by a very large coalition of public agencies. 

SB 1317 (Lois Wolk) Conditional use permit: groundwater extraction facility — Amend
This bill would require a city or county overlying a basin designated as a high- or medium-priority basin to establish a process for the issuance of conditional use permits for the development of a groundwater extraction facility in order to prevent a new groundwater extraction facility from contributing to or creating an undesirable result, as prescribed.  We propose that AB 1317 exempt OCWD from its provisions, due to our statutory authorities to manage the groundwater basin in Orange County. Status: Amendment accepted by Senator Wolk’s staff

AB 2874 Gaines Groundwater sustainability agencies: fees — Amend
This bill would require a groundwater sustainability agency, before imposing or increasing, pursuant to this authority, a fee relating to a groundwater basin that includes a water corporation regulated by the Public Utilities Commission (PUC), to notify the PUC.  To ensure OCWD’s Replenishment Assessment and Additional Replenishment Assessment are not subject to the PUC review, OCWD proposes the bill be amended to specify that fees subject to the PUC apply to only those fees referenced in SGMA (a fee pursuant to Section 10730 or 10730.2) Status: ACWA in support of this amendment


Water Resources Development Act of 2016 (S. 2848)  Boxer and Inhofe — Support
Status: S. 2848 passed the Environment and Public Works Committee and is moving through the Senate.  One provision that would assist the District’s efforts to address the impact of drought is the leveraging of federal and nonfederal infrastructure investments as set out in Section 1012. This provision would allow for nonfederal entities to request the review and approval of the use of reservoirs to capture stormwater flows that, in turn, would provide for sustainable water supplies.  This approach could generate tens of thousands of acre-feet of water annually for use as drinking water that otherwise would be lost to the Pacific Ocean.  

Water Recycling Acceleration Act of 2015 (H.R. 2993) Matsui — Support
H.R. 2993 (Matsui) amends the Reclamation Wastewater and Groundwater Study and Facilities Act (Title XVI) by stating that project funding under this title shall not be required to have been previously specifically authorized, if the project reclaims and reuses municipal, industrial, domestic, or agricultural wastewater or naturally impaired ground and surface waters. 

Water Conservation Rebate Tax Parity Act (H.R. 4615) Rohrabacher — Support
The bill ensures that water conservation efforts are extended similar tax treatment that is provided to energy conservation.

H.R. 2689 Walters — Watch
This bill states that the U.S Army Corps of Engineers environmental infrastructure projects (section 219) would be considered water resources development projects for purposes of the Corps including such projects in recommendations to Congress for funding and authorizing purposes.