Victory for California Water Reusers: Sustainable Silicon Valley Helps Pass SB 966

Victory for California Water Reusers: Sustainable Silicon Valley Helps Pass SB 966

On September 28th Governor Brown signed into law SB 966, California’s first onsite non-potable reuse legislation. SSV actively supported passing this important legislation over the past two years. Water recycling is a greatly underutilized water source for California, which faces a variety of stresses on local water supplies. Authored by Senator Scott Wiener, SB 966 will provide tools to encourage communities to safely adopt local programs and increase local water resilience. We look forward to supporting the rollout of this legislation in the Silicon Valley.

Two Years of Efforts Pays Off

Sustainable Silicon Valley’s Water Team, along with our Members and Advisors, worked diligently to help advance the work of Senator Scott Wiener and Paula Kehoe of the SFPUC, which resulted in the unanimous, bipartisan passing of SB 966.

SSV’s support included:

-Reaching out and engaging our membership base and creating a water community to support this bill through letters, social media and testimony

-Providing expert witness testimony at the Senate Environmental Quality Committee (in 2017 and 2018) and Assembly Environmental Safety and Toxic Materials Committee (in 2018)

-Facilitating stakeholder involvement

-Educating California leaders about the role onsite reuse can play in increasing water resilience

-Encouraging businesses developing products and services in the water reuse space

175 local leaders attended “Navigating Bay Area Water” on May 31 in Palo Alto, one of many water events hosted by SSV

A Bold Step for California

California has taken a bold step to encourage the expansion of water recycling by requiring the State Water Board to develop statewide health standards for the adoption of safe, onsite non-potable water reuse systems.

‘Onsite non-potable reuse’ means water is recycled in individual buildings, as opposed to large central locations, for uses such as irrigation, toilet flushing irrigation and in cooling towers. Current state guidance for operating and monitoring onsite systems is inconsistent, so communities have been reluctant to offer permitting programs. As Senator Wiener says, “SB 966 gives cities the tools they need to put water recycling programs in place.”

Part of a Drought Proof Solution for California

Onsite water reuse is not a silver bullet, but a method of strengthening our portfolio approach to preserving our water supplies. California needs multiple tools in our toolbox as we face a future with a hotter and drier climate, declining snow packs and a growing population.

Given that up to ninety percent of commercial water needs can be met with non-potable water, it makes sense to augment and upgrade our aging water infrastructure with non-potable onsite systems. A ‘fit-for-purpose’ approach reduces the wasteful practice of using drinking water for toilet flushing and irrigation.

In addition, adding more recycling capacity will help make better use of our treated wastewater. In 2015 alone, 417 billion gallons of treated wastewater went unused and was released into California bays and waterways.

Finally, these systems are paid for with private dollars.  Onsite systems are a smart tool to allow us to use our water wisely in California.

Next Steps

The passing of SB 966 is a solid step in the right direction to increase our recycled water supply. Cities and counties will need support and encouragement as they take on a greater leadership role in water stewardship by launching local programs.

Look for SSV updates on how to participate in upcoming events, stakeholder meetings and local working groups.

Be sure to contact us to join our Water Community Distribution List. cclark@sustainablesv.org