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About Those Storms

February 1, 2010

Two articles yesterday, one from the S.F. Chronicle and one from the L.A. Times, brought to light an aspect of water management that I hadn’t realized was an issue, perhaps because we get so few storms. From the Chronicle:

During the storms that howled through the Bay Area a couple of weeks back, a total of 630,000 gallons of raw sewage spewed into the bay at 47 spots, according to environmental watchdog group San Francisco Baykeeper.

A proposed law would require new homes, larger developments and some redevelopments in Los Angeles to capture and reuse runoff generated in rainstorms.
The ordinance would require property owners to “capture, reuse or infiltrate 100% of runoff generated in a 3/4-inch rainstorm.” If they didn’t do so, they would have to pay a pollution mitigation fee. Water that is lost via runoff creates a two-fold cost for society. For one, we collectively have to spend more money cleaning that water so that it doesn’t ruin our coastal ecosystems and render our recreational areas unfit for swimming or fishing. Secondly, we lose the chance to use that water, especially important because of the current drought. By enacting the fees, the L.A. DPW is relocating the costs of that pollution and lost opportunity to the entities that actually have the chance to reduce the pollution and take the opportunity. It’s good policy and something that the East Bay Municipal Utility District should consider.

Update: The UC Berkeley-UCLA environmental law blog Legal Planet picks up the same story and adds some context.

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