Welcome to the Stormwater Initiative home page. Here you will find information on the Stormwater Initiative plus the latest updates. There are also additional materials, such as staff reports, letters, PowerPoints, and white papers, developed for outreach or informational presentations that can be used as templates for similar purposes.
December, 2016 Status
On December 14, 2015, the California State Association of Counties (CSAC), the League of California Cities (the League) and the Association of California Water Agencies (ACWA) filed a proposed Constitutional amendment with the Attorney General (AG), titled "The California Water Conservation, Flood Control and Stormwater Management Act of 2016". The proposed ballot measure would have amended Article X of the California Constitution to create a new, optional funding method that local agencies could use to fund local stormwater services and flood control projects, and establish conservation-based water rates or lifeline rates to assist low-income customers. The proposal ensured that any local agency that utilized the optional funding method would be required to adhere to strict accountability, transparency and ratepayer protections.
The official Title and Summary was issued by the AG on February 18, 2016. The League, CSAC, and ACWA conducted follow-up polling on the Title and Summary to obtain a more thorough picture of voter sentiment. The polling results showed the Title and Summary would fail to get majority support and opposition exceeded support. The polling results also demonstrated that any funded opposition would have a strong influence on voters' reaction to the ballot measure.
On a more positive note, the polling results showed that voters believe local governments need additional funds to address stormwater and water-related issues. Voter support was also expressed for many of the ballot measure's objectives – to protect water quality, upgrade aging infrastructure, increase conservation and implement lifeline pricing.
The polling consultant concluded that passing the current ballot measure would be exceedingly difficult even with a superior funding advantage. As a result, CSAC, the League, and ACWA decided to not move forward with the proposed ballot measure in 2016. However, everyone agrees there is a great need for the ballot measure, as the need for sustainable funding for stormwater services and the need for conservation is going to continue to grow. Between now and the next opportunity to place the ballot measure on a ballot, we all must do what we can to inform the public and elected officials why this is important.
CSAC, the League, and ACWA will continue the dialogue with each other, the larger coalition that had been working on the ballot measure, and their respective members regarding other viable options and strategies that build on positive elements of the polling and prepare ourselves for the next opportunity to pass the ballot measure.
The County Engineers Association of California, one of the primary supporters of the ballot measure, wants to keep working on improving prospects for a future ballot measure. They will be developing goals and a strategic plan to guide their efforts in the coming year.
The Stormwater Initiative
Stormwater is a vital resource! Polluted stormwater impacts public and environmental health and its infrastructure protects properties from flooding. Proper management of stormwater and its infrastructure is critical for the health and economic prosperity of our society. We need to provide utility status and dependable funding for stormwater so, as a resource, it can be managed efficiently and reliably like a water or wastewater utility manages our drinking water resources and wastewater resources. Currently, water and wastewater districts can raise revenue through a noticed public hearing, resulting in their vital systems working well today and into the future. The Initiative will provide that utility status for stormwater, our most precious resource.
The Stormwater Initiative is an effort to pass a Constitutional Amendment through the California Legislature that would put a ballot measure before the California voters. The ballot measure would provide the opportunity for California voters to decide if "Stormwater" infrastructure and services should be funded similar to the way wastewater districts and water districts fund their infrastructure and services.
The ballot measure will also include provisions for allowing water districts, wastewater districts, and stormwater agencies to charge conservation rates and lifeline rates to their customers. Passage of this ballot measure would allow California to manage its water resources to meet today's requirements and the needs of society.
Is This Important?
When it comes to rain in California two things are certain. There will be droughts and there will be floods, and a changing climate will make these natural disasters more intense. Is it important to manage stormwater as a resource like our drinking water and wastewater? The following are just some of the reasons for giving stormwater a priority and establishing an equal stature with drinking water and wastewater in California.
- Mercury and other chemicals in stormwater are ingested by fish impacting their health and the health of people who eat the fish.
- Polluted stormwater causes beach closures impacting beach related economies which, in LA County, is a $3.5 billion annual industry.
- 1.8 million people get sick every year after swimming in polluted stormwater at LA County beaches.
- One in five Californians live in a floodplain and have some risk of flooding.
- $575 billion in structure value is exposed to flood hazards statewide.
- Many of our rivers and streams in California are listed as impaired due to pollution levels.
- Polluted stormwater related illnesses in LA and Orange Counties result in $51 million in annual health care costs
What is Stormwater?
In California, water is divided into three sectors; drinking water, wastewater, and stormwater. Managers in all three sectors are busy removing pollutants, building and maintaining a collection and conveyance system, and building and maintaining treatment facilities. Our drinking water resource is managed by water utilities (water districts) and our wastewater resource is managed by wastewater utilities (sanitary districts). Our stormwater resource is managed by a variety of local government agencies, most typically cities, counties, and flood control districts, but there are also a myriad of other unique special districts that play a role in managing this resource. In the stormwater sector, stormwater services include stormwater quality, stormwater retention and infiltration (groundwater supply), and local and regional stormwater drainage infrastructure. These elements of the stormwater sector are described in more detail below.
In many areas stormwater is polluted and must be cleaned up. Pollutants include chemicals from old industrial sources, nutrients from fertilizing landscaped yards, and oil and grease from vehicles. Advisory notices are posted in many rivers and bays to not eat fish because they contain levels of pollutants that exceed health standards. Beaches are closed for the same reason. We need to provide quality stormwater for aquatic species, drinking water, and food production.
Stormwater Retention, Infiltration, and Groundwater Recharge
Not enough rainfall soaks into the ground in many areas, which threatens the health of our watersheds, and reduces the amount of water available in our groundwater basins. The ground acts as Nature's water filtration system, cleaning the water as it percolates through the soil on its way to our groundwater basins, creeks, rivers, bays, and the ocean. Poor grazing management compacts the soil reducing its permeability, and soil coverings, such as roads, parking lots, roofs, and patios, limits the amount of rainfall soaking into the ground. The result is more water flows out of the watershed faster reducing the amount of water filtering into our groundwater basins. This increased flow also causes streambank erosion and overall degradation of the stream system and riparian habitat. We need to restore watershed function and health, and increase groundwater recharge, through enhanced stormwater retention and infiltration.
Local Stormwater Drainage Infrastructure Each community has a series of gutters, ditches, and underground pipes to collect stormwater and protect homes, businesses, and properties from flooding along local streets and waterways. Many of these facilities are old and will need to be replaced, presenting an opportunity to incorporate stormwater treatment into the drainage system. "Green Streets" projects that divert stormwater into grassy areas for infiltration and treatment is one example, as is modifying drainage inlets in streets to capture trash before it enters our creeks. We need to develop and operate local stormwater drainage infrastructure to improve water quality and protect property values.
Regional Flood Protection Infrastructure The planning necessary to protect communities from watershed-scale flooding requires a regional effort usually performed by a Flood Control District. Large-scale flooding can destroy business districts, schools, and other institutions essential to a community's prosperity and well-being. Flood Control Districts provide regional facilities to protect communities from this kind of large-scale flooding. Many of our iconic rivers and streams include flood protection facilities. Replacing these aging systems will allow modifications to include enhanced habitat value and increased stormwater retention and infiltration. We need to develop and operate regional drainage infrastructure to improve ecosystem health and protect communities from flooding.
If California voters approve the ballot measure, stormwater agencies will have the ability to establish or raise rates in a manner similar to water districts and wastewater districts. However, passage of the ballot measure, by itself, will not raise any revenue for agencies that provide stormwater services. If a city, county, or stormwater agency is interested in implementing the initiative, it must be done through a public process, and if a city, county, or stormwater agency is not interested they can decide to do nothing; the choice is theirs. There will also be an opportunity, should communities desire, to organize stormwater services around what may be more efficient and effective models in their area. For example, communities could organize around County boundaries, watershed boundaries, or integrated regional water management boundaries.
Listed below are white papers, resolutions, PowerPoint presentations, letters of support, and other materials related to the Initiative, that provide more detailed information on specific aspects of the Initiative. Feel free to use any of these materials. If you intend to use these for reference, presentation, or a handout, please check this website before-hand and make sure you have the most up-to-date version. All materials have a date on the bottom of the last page and you can check that date against the latest date on the Library list below. The exception would be a PDF document. You may want to check the library regularly. New items will be posted as they are developed.
- What is Stormwater (May 13, 2015) (PDF)
- Importance to Local Government (May 13, 2015) (PDF)
- History of Stormwater Funding (March 25, 2015) (PDF)
- Why Now? (March 30, 2015) (PDF)
- Lessons Learned - Clean Water Initiative (November 14, 2013) (PDF)
If you have questions or comments about the Stormwater Initiative or the content of this website please email Mitch Avalon or call at 925-313-2203.