News Worth Noting: Interior Department and State of California announce support for the Salton Sea; Legislature sends Governor landmark bill to submeter all new apartments, multifamily residences

Interior Department and State of California Announce Support for the Salton Sea

Assistance will improve air and water quality and fish and wildlife habitat

From the California Natural Resources Agency:

CNRA_logoFollowing President Obama’s remarks earlier today at the Annual Lake Tahoe Summit on climate and conservation challenges, Deputy Secretary of the Interior Michael Connor and State of California Natural Resources Secretary John Laird signed a Memorandum of Understanding to strengthen coordination of management activities to benefit the Salton Sea, boost the region’s climate resilience, spur the region’s economic growth, and improve public health.

The MOU provides a framework for collaboration through 2026, with Interior and the State of California working towards the state-identified goal of up to 25,000 acres of resource mitigation. The effort will ensure coordination of activities within the federal and State partnership to facilitate projects in a timely manner to improve air and water quality, fish and wildlife habitat, existing obligations to Native American communities, and collaboration of scientific research efforts.

“Our partnership at the Salton Sea will bring real benefits to this vital California resource and provide stability for surrounding communities,” said Deputy Secretary Connor. “The federal government will continue to work with our partners on our shared interests by identifying innovative approaches to help the State find a path forward to a sustainable Salton Sea.”

“We welcome the commitments and investments from the federal government to augment the significant resources and state investments we are making, as well as their support of our program to help avert an environmental and public health crisis at the Salton Sea,” said California Natural Resources Secretary John Laird.  “The state of California has committed more than $80 million in voter-approved bond funds to restore habitat and suppress dust at the lake in the near term, but greater investment by multiple agencies will be needed.  Today’s agreement between the State and U.S. Department of Interior moves us closer to the level of investment and participation it will take to protect public health and the ecological values threatened by a receding Salton Sea.”

The Salton Sea, located in California’s Imperial and Riverside counties, is the State’s largest lake. The Sea faces a critical tipping point in environmental degradation.  If action is not taken to manage the Sea, the air quality is likely to decline to levels that jeopardize public health, and California will lose critically important Pacific Flyway habitat for waterfowl and shorebirds.

The MOU affirms California’s leading role in resource mitigation and a commitment by the State and Interior that will further the objectives established by Governor Edmund G. Brown Jr.’s Salton Sea Task Force. The federal investment will direct resources to include continued scientific monitoring, technical assistance in permitting and projects, and improved on-farm activities.

The Salton Sea currently supports a robust tilapia population which provides a vital stop for migratory birds along the Pacific Flyway. This terminal lake is sustained by agricultural runoff, which has been declining, resulting in a host of environmental and economic issues. Air and water quality has degraded, as has critical fish, avian, and wildlife habitat. Socio-economic conditions for surrounding communities have been affected by the Sea’s condition. Current conditions are not sustainable and present many challenges, some of which the resources provided by the MOU will be able to address.

Legislature sends Governor landmark bill to submeter all new apartments, multifamily residences

Bill will help renters and property owners conserve water

From the office of Senator Lois Wolk:

WolkToday, after a six-year effort, the State Legislature sent the Governor a landmark measure by Senator Lois Wolk (D-Davis) to encourage responsible water use and conservation by requiring water meters and submeters in new apartment and other multifamily residential buildings.

Wolk’s SB 7 would require that residents of multi-unit dwellings constructed after January 1, 2018 receive accurate information about the volume and cost of their water use through their own individual meters. The bill would also require residents’ water bills to be based on usage.

“Eighty percent of the 15.6 million Californians living in apartments or other multi-family housing are not billed for their water use, meaning nearly a third of the state’s population don’t know how much water they’re using or how much they are charged based on their use,” said Wolk. “Given the extent of the drought and the need for greater water conservation in California, all of the state’s residents should be armed with the knowledge of how much water they’re using to help them reduce their water waste.”

While current law requires installation of water meters for individual homes to measure water use, there is no requirement in state law for the metering or submetering of individual dwellings in an apartment building or other multifamily residential building.

“This legislation will help California conserve water.  When a large part of our population—renters—do not receive a water bill, there is no incentive on their part to conserve.  SB 7 will change that by mandating water submeters in all new apartment units, which will also help renters and property owners lower their water bills through reduced unnecessary water use,” said Debra Carlton with the California Apartment Association, one of the bill’s supporters.

A 2004 study by the U.S. EPA found that submetering provided significant water savings, averaging 15.3 percent —or 21.8 gallons—per unit per day.

“SB 7 strikes an important balance to ensure that as the mandate to install submeters is rolled out, there are consumer protections for things such as leaky fixtures or disputes over other charges,” said Brian Augusta, a legislative advocate with the California Rural Legal Assistance Foundation, which also supports the bill. “We thank Senator Wolk for her leadership on this important issue and working to strike a compromise among all stakeholders, after many years of negotiation.”

The legislation will not require existing buildings to install submeters for dwelling units. Additionally, the bill includes consumer protections which address the maintenance of sub-meters, billing for water service by property owners or third-party billers and notice and disclosures to renters.

“Industry will be asking the Governor to sign this legislation,” said Dave Cogdill, CEO and President of the California Building Industry Association (CBIA), which supports SB 7. “For over a decade, CBIA has been working closely with the Legislature and the Administration to put into place building standards which have slashed indoor water usage in new homes by over 50 percent.  One of the remaining issues left to resolve was the placement of water submeters in new apartment construction and SB 7 will fully address this issue.” 

SB 7 is also supported by the California Association of Realtors, the Western Center on Law & Poverty, water agencies, and environmental organizations like the Sierra Club and the California League of Conservation Voters.

 

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About News Worth Noting:  News Worth Noting is a collection of press releases, media statements, and other materials produced by federal, state, and local government agencies, water agencies, and academic institutions, as well as non-profit and advocacy organizations.  News Worth Noting also includes relevant legislator statements and environmental policy and legal analyses that are publicly released by law firms.  If your agency or organization has an item you would like included here, please email it to Maven.

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