Sustainable Funding for Stormwater Services
This short presentation (30 minutes) will discuss the current efforts to develop a ballot measure that will provide sustainable funding for stormwater services. Currently, water and wastewater districts can raise revenue through a noticed public hearing, while Stormwater agencies must seek a positive vote of the property owners in their service area to raise revenue. The ballot measure would allow 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. Stormwater is a valuable resource, and should be on par with the way we manage drinking water and wastewater. In this context, “Stormwater” includes Stormwater quality, storm water retention and infiltration, local municipal drainage infrastructure, and regional flood control systems.
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 (MS4 permits), stormwater retention and infiltration (groundwater recharge), local stormwater drainage infrastructure (City and County community storm drainage inlets, pipes, and ditches), and regional flood protection systems (Flood Control District facilities).
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.
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.