Preparing for the Next Drought… New Proposal to Boost Water Supplies Gains Traction

The following Commentary by Cordoba Corporation Managing Partner and Chief Financial Officer Maria Mehranian was published on Fox & Hounds Daily on September 12, 2017:

LegislatiMariaon – AB 1180 (Holden) – pending in Sacramento will open the door for voters in Los Angeles County to consider a ballot measure proposal that will better prepare Southern California for the next drought and the impact of climate change on our supply of water. This proposal will boost water supplies and advance compliance with clean water regulations.  Importantly, the proposal is also cost-effective, given its regional scope.

The cornerstone of the proposal, known as the Water Resilience Plan, is the funding and implementation of projects that will capture rainwater in wet years; clean that water; store it and then reuse it in dry years when needed. The importance of this opportunity to increase our supply of water by doing just that cannot be overstated.  Today, LA County captures water that supports 1.5 million people.  Yet the potential of diverting more water that is lost to the ocean is very real.  Experts indicate that the Plan, if implemented, would double or triple the amount of water captured – enough to meet the needs of one-third of those who live in the County.

New facilities are a must-do if we are to trap and treat more stormwater.  According to the Southern California Water Committee, only 12% of Southern California’s drinking water comes from capturing and storing rainwater.  Let’s get on with driving that statistic upward by putting the facilities in place to do just that before the next draught.

Given that there are 85 cities and 200 water agencies in Los Angeles County, facilities planning is often fragmented and, therefore, ripe with inefficiencies. So, it is good news that a collaborative approach is now underway with projects being planned on a broader regional basis, resulting in economies of scale.

Unfortunately, the public dollars available are not sufficient to build the facilities needed to increase our supply of water and meet clean water standards.  Therefore, the proposal, reflected in AB 1180, envisions a tax, subject to voter approval, to fund the Plan.

If action is not taken in the near term, we are at the mercy of the next draught and the County could face substantial fines if constrained when working to meet regulatory standards.

Putting facilities in place that capture storm water and expand storage, along with ongoing conservation, developing new ways to use more recycled water and cleaning up our water locally places Los Angeles County squarely on the path to self-sufficiency. The beneficiaries of these actions over the years to come are our businesses, our families and the environment.

Hydrologist Luna Leopold nailed it when she said, “Water is the most critical resource issue of our lifetime and our children’s lifetime.  The health of our waters is the principal measure of how we live on land.” Water and livability are joined at the hip. Strengthening our water resources, as this proposal does, makes this bond even stronger.

Maria Mehranian is the Managing Partner and Chief Financial Officer of Cordoba Corporation and a former member and Chair of the Los Angeles Regional Water Quality Control Board.