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LA County Trying to Get Its Future Water Situation in Order

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A proposed ordinance would require new developments be more drought-friendly

As SoCal braces for what's looking like another drought year after an underwhelming El Niño winter, the LA County Board of Supervisors is planning ahead accordingly. The LA Times reports that the Supes are looking into creating a new ordinance that would attempt to keep new developments from jacking up regional demands on the water supply, possibly through the use of recycled water or fees that would be collected from developers to go toward conservation projects.

The "net zero" ordinance is a move in the right direction, say environmental groups. Often during the drought, there's been a "disconnect between water agencies and planning departments," says a rep for Heal the Bay, explaining that water agencies hear a solid message of conservation and cutting back, but new projects pop up "without any clear accounting for the additional burdens on our already stressed water supply."

The County Supes are also kicking off an outreach campaign to solicit input from stakeholders to compile a water conservation plan for the county that would include things like stormwater capture projects. Three years ago, the supes proposed an initiative that would have created a new parcel tax to fund a drought plan similar to what they're imagining now, and they were met with such strong pushback that they never actually put it on the ballot.

But now, the pressure is on to get stormwater capture up and running, thanks to new stormwater discharge permit rules that would have cities build so-called green infrastructure like this. County Supes are once again considering a tax proposal, but are are going about it a different way.

The goal of the planned outreach, some supes say, is to get input on the new tax plan so that it might not be so broadly hated (businesses, residents, and even school districts opposed it). Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas, who called the last tax proposal "a hot mess," seems to feel that getting more community input could make for a better, more broadly liked plan, one that could actually get approved and help fund all these pricey but necessary projects.