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California enacts law to encourage stormwater reuse

Stormwaterrunoff During the wet season, the city of L.A. sends 100 million gallons of stormwater into the Pacific each day. That water had, for many years, been handled as pollution, since the water produced in rainstorms picks up various effluents that then flush into the ocean.

But a new California law seeks to expand the role of stormwater management to incorporate strategies that will use it as a resource. The Stormwater Resource Planning Act, SB 790, allows municipalities to tap funds from two of the state’s existing bond funds and use the money for projects that reduce or reuse stormwater, recharge the groundwater supply, create green spaces and enhance wildlife habitats. SB 790 was signed into law Sunday and takes effect Jan. 1, 2010.

"I was proud to carry 790," said Sen. Fran Pavley (D-Agoura Hills), who wrote the bill. "It uses existing funds to create new water supplies out of water that in the past was simply treated and dumped. This bill helps create a significant new source of water for our always water-short state."

With California in the throes of a budget crisis and a water crisis – the state is currently enduring a third year of drought – the competition will likely be fierce among the many government agencies that manage the state’s stormwater. SB 790 allows agencies to apply for and, if approved, draw on remaining funds from Prop. 50, the $3.44-billion water security bond passed by California voters in 2002, and Prop. 84, the $5.4-billion safe drinking water bond passed in 2006. Exactly how much money is left over from those bonds is unclear.

L.A.’s Bureau of Sanitation, which has already received $22 million in bond funds from the state for various stormwater projects, is likely to apply for even more funds through SB 790. According to Wing Tam, assistant division manager for the bureau’s watershed protection division, the money will fund an expansion of the city's rainwater harvesting projects and green infrastructure, including large cisterns, stream restoration, biofiltration and downspout disconnections.

"It's important for us to capture stormwater and use it as a resource," said Tam, who noted that the city's paradigm shift from viewing stormwater as pollution to stormwater as a resource has been a gradual process born through 10 years of pilot projects. "Not only does that help us with water quality but quality of life. A wetland park deals with water quality, but it also creates a park for people to use. It's multi-use. That's our future."

-- Susan Carpenter

Photo: Bruce Huff / Los Angeles Times

 
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THE ANCIENT NABATEANS COLLECTED RAINFALL AND PROSPERED IN A HARSH DESERT CLIMATE.
ALL WE HAVE TO DO IS DIG HOLES IN EACH WATERSHED BIG ENOUGH TO HOLD ALL THE RAINFALL EXPECTED THAT YEAR.
THE GROUND WATER WOULD BE RECHARGED.THERE WOULD BE MULTIYEAR STORAGE.AND NO MORE WATER SHORTAGES.
ALL THIS REQUIRES IS THE WILL TO DO IT, SOME BULLDOZERS, DYNAMITE, LOADERS AND TRUCKS.
THIS IS ALL AVAILABLE NOW.
GOVERNOR BROWN'S FATHER MADE THE CA AQUEDUCT SYSTEM A REALITY.
COULD THIS GOVERNOR BROWN SOLVE THE STORAGE PROBLEM?
W.R.HALE,M.D.

Rainguard™ downspout extensions disperse rainwater away from your foundation.

As a civil engineer in Connecticut I thought this was a great article! We are currently proposing a number of low impact development techniques whenever possible to promote recharge such as rain gardens and porous asphalt.

Thank you TreePeople for getting this moved along - this is long overdue. We have been rain harvesting at our home for years and now it's finally in vogue. No matter it's all good! You know the darn rain barrels don;t have to b fancy things either - we found a few good barrels and just used the kits we found on-line from www.aquabarrel.com - then we spruced them up with a bit of spray paint - Krylon makes one that will work (Fusion? I think it was called)

I'm glad to see this new ordinance go into effect. I hope that the funds will be managed well and that the community can benefit from this new resource.

Cities need to manage stormwater for beneficial uses such as augmenting water supply, preventing floods, mitigating stormwater pollution, creating green space and enhancing wildlife habitat.

When cities are able to harvest rainwater locally they decrease the energy – and greenhouse gas emissions – required to transport water across vast distances across the state and beyond.

It's so refreshing to read that positive action towards showing our appreciation of water is taking place. Thanks for the story & keep them coming.

Stormwater management can be one of the more frustrating aspects of building construction and maintenance; most people not intimately involved with the details of site work don't understand the import of proper care of stormwater. Stories like this are great in helping highlight the usefulness of an untapped resource. One hundred million gallons can be hard to envision, but that is enough to supply water that was previously unusable to over 400,000 four-family homes. It is enough to tilt the scales to really deal with drought conditions and help solve a problem that is typically viewed as being uncontrollable and unpreventable.

-Civil Engineer in Atlanta

Agree with all other posters - TreePeople, Fran Pavley and Susan Carpenter all deserve our thanks (although it would be nice to know about these bills in advance so we could contact our legislators in support!).

As Terese mentions, slashing our wasteful "movement of water" in this state could cut off 20% of the state's TOTAL electricity consumption, which is remarkable. This capacity could be used for electric cars without any spike in overall consumption (which by the way could easily be met by only using rooftop solar - don't let the Big Energy companies fool you that Big Solar or Big Wind are necessary - they aren't)...

Imagine - we could almost start being a democracy again if we could manage our own water and power to a much greater extent, rather than be enslaved to monopoly utilities. Hurray!

One thing is clear: we should vote against any statewide bond. If L.A. County is getting $22 million out of $5 billion or so (and will have to repay at least $1 billion, judging by the population) - that's worse than highway robbery! At least in a highway robbery, you don't lose 98% of what's rightfully yours.

Living at the beach, I see the effects of storm drains emptying into the ocean - grease, garbage, closed beaches, etc. Thank you TreePeople, and everyone else involved in passing this legislation!

It's great to finally see something about California's ability to address our water issues by using what we already have. Great story!

California needs water so it makes sense to capture and use the water Mother Nature provides. Kudos to the leadership who put SB790 on the table and helped the idea become reality!

It is great to see the work of Tree People taking root.

The passage of this bill is an important first step in helping CA cope with the water shortage. Storm water must not be thought of as "pollution"; this water must be seen as the precious resource it naturally is.

TreePeople has a fantastic demonstration garden that shows a cycle of storm water collection... shows how homes and businesses can collect rainfall. Included are the simple (rain barrels) and the deluxe (a giant cistern system). It is worth seeing. Please take your kids. They , too, need to understand the value of water in our environment.

Thanks for this article. Our cities need to recognize the importance of utilizing and not wasting rain water.

LA Times, keep these types of articles coming! LA residents need to be better informed. If we harvest rainwater locally it will decrease the energy – and greenhouse gas emissions – required to transport water across vast distances across the state and beyond!

It'd be great to have more stories like these to get everyone on board on the idea of rainwater harvesting. We're in a drought but when it rains we let billions of gallons of rainwater go down the storm drain. It makes no sense to me.

Great article. California cities need to deal with stormwater in a new way instead of wasting the rain that falls from the sky.

More, more, more stories like this pleeeeease!

Nice coverage! You should be doing more stories like this please!


Treating storm water as the precious resource that it is by implementing rainwater harvesting projects not only reduces polluted runoff, it's an important step toward realizing a restored Los Angeles River. Thank you TreePeople and Sen. Pavley for championing this important legislation!

At TreePeople we're very excited about the passage of this legislation. We sponsored SB 790, and although TreePeople doesn't 't usually sponsor bills, we believed SB 790 to be the right bill to address stormwater management.

SB 790 helps move state policy toward viewing stormwater as a resource rather than just seeing it as an expensive problem to be managed. The old “gray” infrastructure choice of paving over cities and turning rivers into concrete ditches isn't the only option to manage stormwater. The passage of SB 790 encourages alternative, innovative solutions.

TreePeople is an environmental nonprofit that unites the power of trees, people and technology to grow a sustainable future for Los Angeles. Our latest project - at our headquarters in Coldwater Canyon Park - features a cistern that holds .25 million gallons of rainwater. This cistern can support TreePeople's landscaping needs for an entire year.To learn about our sustainability cities work, visit http://www.treepeople.org/demonstrations-and-solutions.

Fantastic! I'm really looking forward to the rainwater harvesting program being expanded, even though my house is not particularly suited (all of my storm water stays on-site already).

Senator Fran Pavley is at it again. An environmentalist before it was trendy. She obviously cares about protecting natural resources and finding low or no-cost solutions to make our state a better place now, and for future generations.


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