Water is a complex subject with many costs–it needs to be captured, stored, treated, and moved from place to place. Infrastructure and energy costs, as well as costs for wildlife monitoring, quality checks, and enforcement all require a variety of costs. Proper management and reporting are also a necessary part of an effective water system. Our government recognizes this and has passed landmark legislation related to these necessities over the years. Below are a few examples of legislation related to water at the federal and state level.

[smc-box] • Federal: Clean Water Act
Federal: Safe Drinking Water Act
State: CA Water Action Plan
State: Proposition 1 (Water Bond-2014)
State: Oil and Gas Reporting Requirements
State: Sustainable Groundwater Management
State: Emergency Drought Relief

Clean Water Act

The Clean Water Act establishes the basic structure for regulating discharges of pollutants into the waters of the United States and regulating quality standards for surface waters. The Act was created in 1948 and called Federal Water Pollution Control Act, though the name changed after it was significantly reorganized and expanded in 1972. The new amendments also gave the recently-created Environmental Protection Agency the authority to implement pollution control programs such as setting wastewater standards for industry, and funded the construction of sewage treatment plants under the construction grants program. In 1987, Congress created the Clean Water State Revolving Fund to help states fund water quality improvement projects; to date, state and federal CWSRFs have contributed over $100 billion. For more information, visit http://www2.epa.gov/laws-regulations/history-clean-water-act

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Safe Drinking Water Act

The Safe Drinking Water Act (SDWA) was passed in 1974 in order to ensure the quality of drinking water wasn’t endangering the health of Americans. The SDWA followed standards still used today set by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). Originally the SDWA primarily focused on treatment of water, working with the EPA to protect Americans from harmful man-made and organic contaminants. But in 1986 and 1996, the SDWA was amended in order to protect drinking water, from its source to the tap. This included protection of water sources (rivers, reservoirs, lakes, and wells), funding to make improvements, and provide public information about the water residents are using. Amending the act to protect water from point source further ensured a high quality of drinking water for Americans.

Source: http://water.epa.gov/lawsregs/rulesregs/sdwa/index.cfm#sdwafs

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CA Water Action Plan

California’s Water Action Plan is designed to combat the risks the state faces in water quality, supply, and natural habitat. In 2009, the state adopted the Water Conservation Act, requiring a twenty percent reduction in urban water usage per capita by the year 2020. The California Water Action Plan contains three main objectives: more reliable water supplies, habitat restoration, and sustainable water supplies that can withstand future climate change. In order to meet the goals of the plan, local and regional agencies will need greater conservation from residents and businesses. The State Water Resources Board has implemented restrictions on water usage on pavement that results in excessive runoff into the streets. Here on the peninsula, cities, water agencies, and BAWSCA participate in rebate programs for low flow toilets and high-efficiency washers in order help residents conserve water. Conservation must be adopted as a way of life for state residents.

Water management is also important in the California Water Action Plan. Updating Bulletin 118, California’s Groundwater Plan, requires an update of field data, groundwater agency reports, and satellite imagery in order to assess a sustainable future for California’s groundwater usage. A sustainable groundwater plan ensures that high quality water is served to the millions of state residents that rely on groundwater. Californians that do not rely on groundwater will look towards increasing groundwater collection or constructing an above or below ground facility as the length of the current drought is uncertain.

Currently the Delta is California’s major collection point for water, serving two-thirds of the state population, as well as irrigation for the state’s farmland. Some groups are concerned about the long-term sustainability of the Delta’s ecosystem as salmon populations are at an all time low and levees are seismically unstable. A thriving ecosystem in the Delta ensures a more reliable source of water for the 25 million California residents who depend on it, as well as the agricultural economy that feeds millions of people in and out of state.

More info: http://resources.ca.gov/docs/california_water_action_plan/Final_California_Water_Action_Plan.pdf

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Proposition 1 (Water Bond-2014)

In November 2014, Californians overwhelmingly passed Proposition 1: $7.1 billion in general obligation bonds plus $425 million redirected from previously approved unsold general obligation bonds. An $11 billion proposal was rejected in 2012 for having too much pork-barrel spending, and this was considered a slimmer version of that bill. It focuses on attention to water supply, watershed protection and restoration, improvements to groundwater and surface water quality, and flood protection. Regional needs are recognized, provisions for local plans and projects are included, and attention to long term solutions dominates the proposal. It provides some of the funding for Gov. Brown’s CA Water Action Plan and other water-related legislation.

For more information: http://ballotpedia.org/California_Proposition_1,_Water_Bond_%282014%29

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Oil and Gas Reporting Requirements

SB 1281, authored by Fran Pavley (D-Agoura Hills) in 2014, requires greater transparency from the oil and gas industry over the amount of water and types of chemicals used during extraction. Existing law requires oil and gas well owners to file regular reports monthly with the State, including disposition of water produced in each field. This bill focuses on water used to generate or make up part of any injected fluid for the generation of oil or gas. Under this law reports would become standardized and describe water treatment, use of treated or recycled water, and the disposition of water used in the production of oil and gas. It also requires the source, volume, and composition of any water injected during or recovered after the process to be reported quarterly.

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Sustainable Groundwater Management

After a long era with little oversight, California now has requirements for reporting and sustainable management of groundwater resources. Governor Brown passed three bills, which together set the framework for these new requirements. Prior to this bill, there weren’t any requirements on how much water could be extracted from the ground, which led to risky management practices and even subsidence (sinking of the ground, which can damage the environment and allow seawater intrusion). The bill allows the state to identify three tiers based on agencies’ reliance of groundwater: high, medium, and low priority, and assigns a timetable for agencies to build a plan depending on their tier. Implementation is at the local level, but the state can enter if local agencies aren’t monitoring or responding properly. This bill had high support among urban areas, as it is seen as a necessary step towards long term water security.

More information here: http://groundwater.ca.gov/cagroundwater/

Groundwater blog: http://www.water.ca.gov/cagroundwater/gablog.cfm

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Emergency Drought Relief

On March 27, 2015, the governor signed bills AB 91/92, the Emergency Drought Relief package, fast-tracking $1 billion for water storage infrastructure and conservation programs. Having passed with bi-partisan support, the measure accelerates action regarding food aid, drinking water, recycling, conservation awareness, water system modeling, species tracking, as well as infrastructure and flood protection.

More info here: http://gov.ca.gov/news.php?id=18906

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