SB 1298 to Improve Local Water Management

June 13, 2016 — The drought has harmed California’s economy and environment, exposing serious water management issues throughout the state. We applaud Senator Hertzberg for his leadership today in introducing SB 1298, a bill that will help modernize how California manages its precious water resources by providing local governments a path towards the flexibility needed to ensure a healthy and reliable water future for their communities. This will be especially beneficial in the Los Angeles region, where there are great opportunities to capture and treat runoff, turning a nuisance into a much-needed resource.

Given the importance and urgency of this issue, we’ve been disappointed to see opposition arise, especially among agencies who stand to benefit the most directly from its passage. While the bill isn’t a perfectly conclusive fix, it doesn’t preclude further work towards a more ideal solution. In addition, it addresses an urgent need in a timely manner – to date, the only strategy we’re aware of that can make this claim.

Water policy is tough. It has deep history. And, it’s laden with political wonkiness. Here we break down why SB 1298 is so important.


Communities need better tools to conserve, reuse, and recycle water. The lack of funding for essential water services continues to grow, as shown in a recent Public Policy Institute of California report that identified a $2-3 billion annual funding deficit for critical water services in California.

Additionally, low and fixed income residents struggle to pay their water bills, and it is currently difficult for local agencies to provide financial assistance. It is also difficult for water agencies to create pricing structures designed to conserve water.


We are seeking a legislative solution that would empower local communities to modernize water management and improve public health, water reliability, environmental protection, and economic stability. Specifically, providing local government better tools in three key areas:

  1. Creating opportunities to fund projects and programs that turn the public health nuisance of urban runoff into a resource. This includes capturing and cleaning polluted runoff and then recycling it or using it to recharge our aquifers. Think nature-based solutions like native plant and soil lined roadways that filter urban runoff, or large stormwater treatment facilities, like Santa Monica’s Urban Runoff Recycling Facility that captures and cleans stormwater, which can then be used for landscape irrigation. SB 1298 gives local agencies more options for supporting local water services.
  2. Providing affordable water. California’s Human Right to Water law says that everyone has a right to safe, clean, affordable and accessible water. Unfortunately, our current water management system leaves systems that subsidize low-income ratepayers vulnerable to legal challenge. This leaves many Californians in situations where they are unable to pay for high water rates. SB 1298 would allow water agencies to set rate structures that provide affordable rates to qualifying customers most in need of assistance.
  3. In many parts of the country, water rates are tiered to promote conservation and discourage wasteful overuse – high volume customers are charged higher rates while water savers pay lower rates. Yet, unfortunately current policy contains barriers for local agencies to incentivize water conservation and penalize water wasters. SB 1298 provides a method for water agencies to create financial incentives for water wasters to reduce their use.


With the severity of the drought, there is an urgent need to source water locally and reliably. For years, Heal the Bay has provided technical and policy expertise to shape recommendations on ways to improve water management throughout the state, alongside environmental groups, resource managers, and decision makers. SB 1298 incorporates many of our recommendations, and outlines straightforward improvements to current water management inefficiencies. It is an important step in addressing California’s water crisis.


Call your legislator and tell them how important smart water management is to you by urging them to support SB 1298. Find your legislator here: