Amid the posturing and foot-dragging over a major legislative package to secure the Sacramento-San Joaquin River Delta and the water arteries that flow from it, the Legislature and Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger this year quietly came together on important new laws to encourage cities to make better use of the water they have. That's especially important here in comparatively dry Southern California, where we'll have to rely more on local water than on any new imports from the north.
Schwarzenegger signed SB 790, which allows cities and other local agencies to apply for previously approved state bond money to recapture storm-water runoff that otherwise would flow, usually untreated, into the ocean. The bill by Sen. Fran Pavley (D-Agoura Hills) makes funds available from Proposition 84, a 2006 bond measure, and Proposition 50, a 2002 measure.
Even in non-drought years, Southern California's annual precipitation rate only slightly keeps the region out of the desert category, yet runoff from storms in the San Gabriel Mountains could supply us with much of our needs, recharging groundwater and filling catch ponds and wetlands -- if it didn't race through the basin and out to the sea. Even runoff from more urbanized areas could, and should, be captured.