Legislation Closer to Crediting Reuse Projects
Early in 2017, the Brown Administration made it known that it sought legislation to mandate post-2020 water conservation requirements on local retail water providers. The Legislature introduced several bills in the Assembly on various approaches to conservation, formed the Assembly Working Group on the issue and introduced very problematic Trailer Bill Language (TBL).
The Orange County Water District (OCWD; the District) engaged immediately, advocating for sufficient credit for communities that have invested in potable reuse projects. OCWD sought to ensure that Orange County groundwater producers (retail agencies) received as much credit as they needed for the Groundwater Replenishment System (GWRS) to ensure compliance with the long-term conservation legislation.
In addition, the proposed TBL and several of the Assembly bills would have given inordinate power to the State Water Resources Control Board. OCWD, with a coalition of other water agencies and statewide associations, actively worked to oppose these bills. This advocacy included meetings with Governor Brown’s Office, relevant members of the Assembly who engaged on this issue, Orange County’s legislative delegation, and ultimately with California State Senator Bob Hertzberg, the chair of the Senate Natural Resources and Water Committee.
As 2017 progressed, Senator Hertzberg became the clear leader on this issue in the Senate. Though he does not represent Orange County, Senator Hertzberg is ultimately sympathetic to the need to credit agencies who have made significant investments in potable reuse.
While the opposition coalition succeeded in defeating the TBL in 2017, during the last few weeks of the session two policy bills emerged as the main water conservation legislative vehicles: SB 606 (Hertzberg) and AB 1668 (Friedman). While these bills were much more palatable than the proposed TBL, they ultimately did not include credit for potable reuse. OCWD continued to lobby aggressively in opposition to the bills.
The bills were ultimately amended to provide a 10 percent credit for potable reuse, but OCWD continued to advocate for additional credit believing that a 15 percent credit was the minimum necessary to safeguard the investments of Orange County ratepayers. The opposition of OCWD, other agencies and individual members of the Assembly kept the bills from passing in 2017.
Ultimately, SB 606 was amended in May 2018 to provide a 15 percent credit to existing potable reuse facilities like the GWRS. This 15 percent credit, which is based on demands and water targets, equates to Orange County groundwater producers getting credit for nearly 60 percent of GWRS water production. The bills recently passed out of the California Legislature and have moved on to Governor Brown’s desk.
OCWD is thankful to the Orange County legislative delegation, the opposition coalition, the groundwater producers, and Senator Hertzberg for their support of its efforts and for recognizing the important role potable reuse plays to ensure water reliability for the region.