The Board of Supervisors voted unanimously Tuesday to take another stab at figuring out precisely how to capture storm water to protect against future droughts and clean up local waterways — and how to pay for it.
Supervisors Sheila Kuehl and Hilda Solis, who co-authored the motion, both declared “Water is life” in advocating for a parcel tax to pay for stormwater infrastructure to improve water quality and conserve local supplies.
“We lost the opportunity to capture over 100 billion gallons” of water during this year’s storms, Kuehl said, which would be enough to supply an estimated 2.5 million residents with water for a full year.
Uncaptured, that run-off carries debris, bacteria and chemicals into rivers and the ocean.
Advocates hope that the state’s five-year drought, ended by massive rainfall this year, has helped grow support for spending on clean water programs.
In 2013, the then-board — four of the five seats have since changed hands — voted down a proposed ballot measure called “Clean Water, Clean Beaches” after encountering broad opposition from city officials with water programs of their own, school districts worried about paying big fees and businesses taking an anti-tax stance.
Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas, the only current member of the board who was serving in 2013, said staffers had “learned from those issues of the past.”
The first phase of a “water resilience plan” — requested by the board last year and set to be completed this summer — is expected to detail specific infrastructure investments and a process for coordinating across the multitude of interested government agencies.
As in 2013, dozens of environmental advocates showed up Tuesday in support of the plan.
Some familiar arguments, about taxing rain and duplicating city’s efforts, were made by those opposed.
Supervisor Kathryn Barger urged staffers to look at all options for funding cleanup and capture programs.
“I’m not crazy about a parcel tax,” Barger said.
Voters approved a parcel tax for parks in November, which Barger attributed to the county’s bottom-up approach to seeking input from residents and city officials in setting priorities.
Kuehl said the same rigorous ground-up approach would apply here.
The process of gathering input from local water agencies, municipalities, public health agencies, businesses, school districts and community groups and right-sizing a parcel tax is slated to take nine months.