The Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors today approved a motion, introduced by Supervisor Sheila Kuehl and Supervisor Hilda L. Solis, directing the Department of Public Works to increase public and stakeholder engagement on the development of its Water Resilience Plan and to develop an associated Expenditure Plan and parcel tax that would help advance critical stormwater capture and quality projects and programs throughout the county. The motion is intended to better manage precious water resources and prepare the region for future drought cycles.

The County is currently crafting a Water Resilience Plan to increase drought preparedness, capture more water locally, better manage existing supplies, protect beaches and oceans from contamination, green neighborhoods, and parks, and improve coordination among relevant government agencies. A first draft is expected in summer of 2017 but will continue to be developed with stakeholder input through 2018.

“Water touches all aspects of our lives, from basic necessities to recreation and quality of life,” said Supervisor Kuehl. “We want to ensure that Los Angeles County residents for generations to come have safe, clean and reliable water. We face a new climate reality and need to be thoughtful stewards of our future water supply. We need an assessment of the actions we can take that would result in the greatest benefits and the additional investments necessary so the County can plan for our water future.”

This winter’s storms, on the heels of a devastating drought, demonstrated the reality that California’s climate is one of extreme weather cycles: escalating quickly from a debilitating drought to record-breaking rainfall. As communities throughout the region adapt to wild swings in weather and water supply availability, stormwater projects can enable communities to capture more water locally, protecting against the impacts of future droughts that are certain to return.

A recent Department of Public Works needs assessment determined multi-benefit stormwater capture strategies and programs represent a unique opportunity for the region to substantially supplement local water supply, improve water quality and provide additional benefits for watershed health and community quality of life.

“Living in a highly urbanized community like Los Angeles County means that we have unmanaged stormwater that carries contaminants and reaches rivers, streams and the ocean,” said Supervisor Solis. “Stormwater capture benefits go far beyond water supply. They protect our beaches and oceans from contamination and keep our neighborhoods and local parks green, promoting public health and quality of life in the communities in which we live and work.”

Currently, the County of Los Angeles captures and stores enough stormwater to meet the demand of more than 1.5 million residents each year. Research has shown that implementation of regional stormwater capture projects could double that amount—capturing enough water to meet the needs of nearly one-third of the county’s residents.

Los Angeles County and 85 of its cities are required to build stormwater capture and clean-up projects as part of Federal Clean Water Act compliance. While some municipalities have passed fees and taxes to address the stormwater funding needed, most have no ongoing funding stream to pay for it.

While other types of water supply infrastructure are supported by reliable revenue, stormwater capture projects are stranded with little or no existing funding. The Board’s motion today also directs the Department of Public Works to develop an associated Expenditure Plan that will determine an appropriate parcel tax to fund Los Angeles County stormwater capture and water quality projects and programs. The Department of Public Works is directed to report back in 9 months.

The Board of Supervisors is placing specific focus on multi-benefit projects, which have water quality and public health benefits. These projects can prevent large volumes of stormwater runoff from carrying trash and debris through our rivers, polluting our popular and iconic beaches and bays.