California Water Board Missteps, Overlooks Critical Water Supply Potential for State

Rejected Stormwater Solution Could Have Supplied Los Angeles with Major Share of Annual Water Needs

SACRAMENTO, CALIF. (June 16, 2015) – The State Water Resources Control Board today decided not to move forward on one of the most promising opportunities to help California become more drought- resistant: stormwater capture. The Board’s precedent-setting decision could have required municipalities to capture stormwater and use it to augment local water supplies. Instead, the Board voted 5-0 to uphold the current stormwater permit for Los Angeles County, last renewed in 2012, which allows municipalities to circumvent water pollution standards even if they don’t have a stormwater capture program in place. As a result, precious, reusable rainwater will continue to flow down storm drains and out to the ocean.

Stormwater capture, in its most ambitious form, could provide up to 253, 437 acre-feet of water for Los Angeles County after every inch of rainfall – that's nearly 40 percent of the City of Los Angeles’ annual water use.


Following is a statement from Steve Fleischli, director of the Natural Resources Defense Council’s water program:

“This is a huge missed opportunity for Los Angeles – and the rest of the state. Stormwater capture is one of our best tools for combatting drought, allowing us to truly maximize every drop of water in California. The State Water Resources Control Board says it’s committed to adopting long-term drought solutions, but today’s decision shows that’s simply not true when it comes to capturing rainwater.”


Following is a statement from Liz Crosson, executive director of Los Angeles Waterkeeper:

“The State Board has failed to provide the leadership that the Los Angeles region needs in this time of drought. This was an opportunity to maximize our use of stormwater and reduce our reliance on imported, energy-intensive and quickly depleting sources of water.”



California is in its fourth consecutive year of drought, with 2012 through 2014 being the driest three-year period in the past 1,200 years.

In NRDC and the Pacific Institute’s Untapped Potential of California's Water Supply report last summer, we detailed a host of solutions that make economic sense, as well as environmental sense. Specifically, with an aggressive statewide effort to use water-saving practices, reuse water, and capture lost stormwater, we found that California could be saving up to 14 million acre-feet of water per year - that is more than the amount of water used in all of California's cities in one year.


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