Wednesday, the California State Assembly Committee on Appropriations passed Assembly Bill 869, introduced by Assembly Member Blanca Rubio, with unanimous, bipartisan support. The bill exempts recycled water from calculations proposed by the State Water Resources Control Board for determining water use efficiency.
The bill would also exempt recycled water from any future drought response from the Brown administration or legislature. This exemption protects recycled water investments and ensures that there is not a disincentive to building new projects once the State Board implements future restrictions on water use.
Local water agencies Olivenhain Municipal Water District, Padre Dam Municipal Water District, and Rincon del Diablo Municipal Water District co-sponsored AB 869. Many other local water agencies have voiced their support for this bill including City of San Diego, San Diego County Water Authority, and members of the North San Diego Water Reuse Coalition including Carlsbad Municipal Water District, City of Escondido, Leucadia Wastewater District, City of Oceanside, San Elijo Joint Powers Authority, Santa Fe Irrigation District, and Vallecitos Water District.
“Recycled water is salvaged water that is otherwise unusable, and if not salvaged, it goes out into the ocean and does not exist as a water source in California. Every drop of recycled water replaces a drop of potable water, reducing energy demands associated with transporting water from the Delta or the Colorado River,” said Kimberly Thorner, OMWD’s General Manager. “The water community applauds Assembly Member Rubio’s leadership on AB 869 and her recognition of the value of recycled and reuse water projects to local communities.”
AB 869 acknowledges recycled water as the ultimate form of conservation, the use of which is already efficient and subject to the most stringent regulations for use of any water source in the state. By declaring that recycled water is an efficient use of water equivalent to other water efficiency measures such as conservation, AB 869 protects recycled water investments under long‐term conservation regulations and drought‐response actions. The bill also defines recycled water to include potable reuse, consistent with other changes in law recognizing both outdoor and indoor uses for recycled water.
“If recycled water is restricted, water agencies will be disincentivized from future development of recycled water and will not build and finance these higher cost recycled water projects that we will ultimately be restricted from using,” said Allen Carlisle, General Manager and CEO of Padre Dam Municipal Water District. “AB 869 protects past investments by ratepayers and encourages future investments in recycled and potable reuse water.”
Of the bills introduced this year to address future water use efficiency, AB 869 is the first to be approved by the California State Assembly Committee on Appropriations. It was also approved on April 25, 2017 by the Assembly’s Water, Parks, and Wildlife Committee, passing both committees with unanimous support. In both hearings, AB 869 received strong, vocal support from local representatives Todd Gloria and Lorena Gonzalez Fletcher. The bill will move to a floor vote by the full Assembly in the very near future.