WHY AM I AFRAID?
Well for one, the law basically states that only landscape contractors are going to be authorized to install rainwater harvest systems. hello?! I'm a rain gutter contractor. Now I will be forced to get a general contractors license. For another thing, if the homeowners are required to go to a miserable government agency, pay a fee and then be subject to inspections they are likely to say forget it and not harvest rain at all. Cannot the government just for once get out of the way? California state officials have proven that if they get involved they will over complicate, over tax and over regulate, just like they do with anything else.
California's Hope To Enter the Rainwater Harvesting Paradigm
By Neal Shapiro, CSM - ARCSA Member
2011 could become a "watershed" year for California with the passage of AB1834, literally. While many states, and other industrialized countries, have and continue to move toward a more sustainable approach to local water management, California has been silent on regulations to permit rainwater and stormwater harvesting for indoor and outdoor non-potable and potable end uses at a critical period when reliance on imported water resources is unreliable and unsustainable state-wide. While the state water code defines potable, recycled and gray water resources, it is silent on rainwater and stormwater. Some interpret this to mean that their uses are allowed, though no uniform set of guidelines and regulations, permitting and inspections exists to provide a regulatory system that is user-friendly to those who want to use these local water resources. Due to this void, to make this a permissible activity, regulations for another water resource are used to formulate a regulatory framework, resulting in a cumbersome system that is a regulatory maze, cost-prohibitive and fails to promote a sustainable activity. AB1834 will provide a uniform standard for rainwater harvesting and use, and give flexibility to local agencies to implement this sustainable strategy. At a time when the state and the western United States continue to face drought, adding a local water resource to the overall water management mix is a welcome, necessary, and bold step.
AB1834 is expected to be re-introduced by Assemblyman Jose Solorio (D-Santa Ana, 69th District) into the state legislature in the first quarter of 2011. The bill defines rainwater, rainwater capture system (systems on a parcel, onsite catchment), stormwater and stormwater capture system (systems with offsite catchment from the MS4 and surface waters); it will allow indoor and outdoor end uses; and it focuses on rainwater use on private and public parcels. Stormwater applications are not authorized due to the need for a stakeholders' discussion on how stormwater harvesting impacts the balance between local uses and water rights of water agencies. Western water law is a unique challenge for many states and locales when it comes to rainwater-stormwater harvesting. Utah and Colorado are two examples where this has become a roadblock for rainwater harvesting. And it could be in California areas where surface waterways are used for recharging aquifers. A small group of interests, including non-governmental organizations, cities, and water agencies, has been working with the Assemblyman's staff to craft a bill that at a minimum can put California on a preliminary sustainable water management path. Once this bill is passed and positive experience is gained, further steps can be taken to expand rainwater uses to larger government stormwater use projects and potable applications.
In the meantime, some rainwater harvesting programs exist around the state. San Francisco, the city and county of, passed a Memorandum of Understanding in 2008 that establishes a legal framework for rainwater harvesting projects for non-potable indoor and outdoor intended uses. This MOU is unique because it involves the city and county, building and public health offices, and the public utility commission. The cities of Los Angeles and San Diego did pilot projects and studies to determine the effectiveness of a permanent rainwater harvesting program. Santa Monica has a rebate program for downspout redirect, rain barrels and cisterns. Berkeley has a very effective rainwater harvesting regulatory framework. And in Southern California, as a region, a small group of cities, LA County Public Works and Public Health, and NGOs have been working for a few years to develop a matrix that allows for a limited number of applications for rainwater and stormwater and under specific filtering and disinfection standards; this document has not been approved.
Indeed, California is on the brink of a significant and bold step toward sustainable water management at a critical time of water supply uncertainty and of climatic change influencing precipitation patterns. Given the urgency of creating a uniform legal framework for rainwater and stormwater harvesting, 2011 is our year in California for a Rainwater Catchment Act.
AB 1834 (Solorio)
Rainwater Capture Act of 2010.
Rainwater Capture Act of 2010.
FULL TEXTAB 1834, Solorio. Rainwater Capture Act of 2010.
(1) Under existing law, the State Water Resources Control Board
(state board) and the California regional water quality control
boards prescribe waste discharge requirements for the discharge of
stormwater in accordance with the national pollutant discharge
elimination system (NPDES) permit program and the Porter-Cologne
Water Quality Control Act. Existing law authorizes a regional water
management group, as defined, to adopt an integrated regional water
management plan that addresses specified matters. Existing law
authorizes a city, county, or special district to develop, jointly or
individually, stormwater resource plans that meet certain standards.
This bill would enact the Rainwater Capture Act of 2010, which
would authorize a landowner to install, maintain, and operate, on the
landowner's property, a rainwater capture system meeting specified
requirements. The bill would authorize a public agency to lead a
statewide stakeholder process to consider and address issues arising
out of expansion of rainwater and stormwater capture. The bill would
require participants in the stakeholder process to be responsible for
costs incurred as a result of their participation and would require
the initiating public agency to be responsible for specified costs.
(2) Existing law, the Contractors' State License Law, creates the
Contractors' State License Board within the Department of Consumer
Affairs and provides for the licensing and regulation of contractors.
Existing law authorizes a landscape contractor working within the
classification of his or her license to enter into a prime contract
for the construction of a swimming pool, spa, or hot tub, an outdoor
cooking center, or an outdoor fireplace, if certain conditions are
met. Under existing law, a violation of these provisions and related
provisions of existing law is grounds for disciplinary action.
This bill would additionally authorize a landscape contractor
working within the classification of his or her license to enter into
a prime contract for the construction of a rainwater capture system,
as defined, if the system is used for landscape irrigation. The bill
would authorize a landscape contractor holding a specified
classification to design and install all exterior components of a
rainwater capture system that are not a part of, or attached to, a
THE PEOPLE OF THE STATE OF CALIFORNIA DO ENACT AS FOLLOWS:
SECTION 1. Section 7027.5 of the Business and Professions Code is
amended to read:
7027.5. (a) A landscape contractor working within the
classification for which the license is issued may design systems or
facilities for work to be performed and supervised by that
(b) Notwithstanding any other provision of this chapter, a
landscape contractor working within the classification for which the
license is issued may enter into a prime contract for the
construction of any of the following:
(1) A swimming pool, spa, or hot tub, provided that the
improvements are included within the landscape project that the
landscape contractor is supervising and the construction of any
swimming pool, spa, or hot tub is subcontracted to a single licensed
contractor holding a Swimming Pool (C-53) classification, as set
forth in Section 832.53 of Title 16 of the California Code of
Regulations, or performed by the landscape contractor if the
landscape contractor also holds a Swimming Pool (C-53)
classification. The contractor constructing the swimming pool, spa,
or hot tub may subcontract with other appropriately licensed
contractors for the completion of individual components of the
(2) An outdoor cooking center, provided that the improvements are
included within a residential landscape project that the contractor
is supervising. For purposes of this subdivision, "outdoor cooking
center" means an unenclosed area within a landscape that is used for
the cooking or preparation of food or beverages.
(3) An outdoor fireplace, provided that it is included within a
residential landscape project that the contractor is supervising and
is not attached to a dwelling.
(4) A rainwater capture system, as defined in Section 10572 of the
Water Code, used for landscape irrigation.
(c) (1) Work performed in connection with a landscape project
specified in paragraph (2), (3), or (4) of subdivision (b) that is
outside of the field and scope of activities authorized to be
performed under the Landscape Contractor (C-27) classification, as
set forth in Section 832.27 of Title 16 of the California Code of
Regulations, may only be performed by a landscape contractor if the
landscape contractor also either holds an appropriate specialty
license classification to perform the work or is licensed as a
general building contractor. If the landscape contractor neither
holds an appropriate specialty license classification to perform the
work nor is licensed as a General Building contractor, the work shall
be performed by a Specialty contractor holding the appropriate
license classification or by a General Building contractor performing
work in accordance with the requirements of subdivision (b) of
(2) Notwithstanding paragraph (1), a landscape contractor
performing work under the Landscape Contractor (C-27) classification,
as set forth in Section 832.27 of Title 16 of the California Code of
Regulations, may design and install all exterior components of a
rainwater capture system, as defined in Section 10572 of the Water
Code, that are not a part of, or attached to, a structure.
(d) A violation of this section shall be cause for disciplinary
SEC. 2. Part 2.4 (commencing with Section 10570) is added to
Division 6 of the Water Code, to read:
PART 2.4. Rainwater Capture Act of 2010
10570. This part shall be known, and may be cited, as the
Rainwater Capture Act of 2010.
10571. The Legislature finds and declares all of the following:
(a) As California has grown and developed, the amount of
stormwater flowing off of buildings, parking lots, roads, and other
impervious surfaces into surface water streams and flood channels has
increased, thereby reducing water allowed to infiltrate into
groundwater aquifers and increasing water and pollution flowing to
the ocean. At the same time, recurring droughts and water shortages
in California have made water conservation efforts a priority.
(b) Historical patterns of precipitation are predicted to change,
with two major implications for water supply. First, an increasing
amount of California's water is predicted to fall not as snow in the
mountains, but as rain in other areas of the state. This will likely
have a profound and transforming effect on California's hydrologic
cycle and much of that water will no longer be captured by California'
s reservoirs, many of which are located to capture snowmelt. Second,
snowmelt, and runoff resulting from snowmelt, are predicted to occur
progressively earlier in the year, and reservoirs operated for flood
control purposes must release water early in the season to protect
against later storms, thereby reducing the amount of early season
snowmelt that can be stored.
(c) Rainwater, captured and properly managed, can contribute
significantly to local water supplies by percolation into the ground
to recharge groundwater aquifers, thereby increasing available
supplies of drinking water. In addition, the use of rainwater through
onsite storage and use for landscape irrigation significantly
reduces the demand for potable water, contributing to the statutory
objective of a 20-percent reduction in urban per capita water use in
California by December 31, 2020.
(d) Expanding reliance on rainwater capture for water supply needs
will require efforts at all levels, from individual landowners to
state and local agencies and watershed managers.
10571.5. Nothing in this part shall be construed to do either of
(a) Alter or impair any existing rights.
(b) Change existing water rights law.
10572. Solely for the purposes of this part, and unless the
context otherwise requires, the following definitions govern the
construction of this part:
(a) "Agricultural lands" has the same meaning as defined pursuant
to Section 56016 of the Government Code.
(b) "Developed or developing lands" means lands that have one or
more of the characteristics described in subparagraphs (A) to (C),
inclusive, of paragraph (4) of subdivision (b) of Section 56375.3 of
the Government Code.
(c) "Rainwater" means rain or snowmelt that has not entered an
offsite storm drain system or channel, a flood control channel, or
any other stream channel, and has not previously been put to
(d) "Rainwater capture system" means a facility on developed or
developing lands, but not on agricultural lands, designed to capture
and retain rainwater flowing off of a building, parking lot, road, or
any other manmade, impervious surface, for either subsequent
outdoor, nonpotable uses or infiltration into a groundwater aquifer.
(e) "Stormwater" means temporary surface water and snowmelt runoff
generated by immediately preceding storms. This definition shall be
interpreted consistent with the definition of "stormwater" in Section
122.26 of Title 40 of the Code of Federal Regulations, as that
section may be amended.
10573. (a) A landowner may install, maintain, and operate, on the
landowner's property, a rainwater capture system to supply water for
outdoor, nonpotable uses on the property where the rainwater was
captured or for groundwater recharge. If a local agency has a program
to promote rainwater or stormwater capture and use, the landowner
shall comply with applicable requirements of the program, including,
but not limited to, a stormwater resource plan adopted pursuant to
Part 2.3 (commencing with Section 10560).
(b) Financing pursuant to Chapter 29 (commencing with Section
5898.10) of Part 3 of Division 7 of the Streets and Highways Code
shall be available to landowners who install a rainwater capture
system, if a local agency authorizes and arranges that financing
consistent with the requirements of that chapter.
(c) This section shall not be construed to impose a duty on, or
impair the authority of, a local agency to establish or implement a
program for rainwater capture in its jurisdiction.
10574. (a) It is the intent of the Legislature that the use of
rainwater for nonpotable uses should not be constrained by drinking
water standards in Title 22 of the California Code of Regulations,
but shall fully comply with water quality requirements for nonpotable
water pursuant to the Porter-Cologne Water Quality Control Act
(Division 7 (commencing with Section 13000)).
(b) Notwithstanding subdivision (a), this part does not affect any
additional state, regional, or local requirements for the protection
of groundwater quality from contamination resulting from stormwater
10575. (a) It is the intent of the Legislature to encourage
collaboration among state, regional, and local agencies with
responsibilities that include, but are not limited to, building
standards, flood protection, water supply, or land use to promote
greater capture of rainwater and stormwater for water supply
(b) It is the intent of the Legislature that the California
Building Standards Code, including the California Green Building
Standards Code (Part 11 (commencing with Section 101) of Title 24 of
the California Code of Regulations), encourage and provide building
standards guidelines for the installation and use of rainwater
capture systems for outdoor, nonpotable uses and groundwater
10576. (a) The Legislature finds and declares that, in order to
expand rainwater and stormwater capture broadly, many legal, policy,
and technical issues will need to be addressed and resolved, and the
best way to address these issues is to develop recommendations for
policies of state and local agencies that would encourage and
facilitate the voluntary installation and use of rainwater capture
systems for outdoor, nonpotable uses and groundwater recharge, and
capture of stormwater by public agencies.
(b) A public agency, including, but not limited to, the
Metropolitan Water District of Southern California or the California
State University Water Resource and Policy Initiative, may lead a
statewide stakeholder process to consider and address the issues
arising out of the expansion of rainwater and stormwater capture. If
a stakeholder process is initiated, the initiating public agency
shall invite all stakeholders, and federal, state, and local agencies
concerned about rainwater and stormwater capture to participate.
(c) A stakeholder process initiated pursuant to this section may
consider all of the following issues:
(1) Vector control.
(2) Water supply augmentation.
(3) Water quality, including but not limited to both of the
(A) First rain contamination hazards.
(B) Potential changes in the concentration, quantity, or abundance
of runoff pollution from increased rainwater collection.
(4) Safe installation, maintenance, and operation of rainwater
(5) Water rights.
(6) Vegetation and habitat management in flood control facilities
and rainwater or stormwater capture systems.
(7) Effects on downstream, in-stream flow volumes and native fish
(8) Consistency with building standards requirements, including
the building drainage requirements of Chapter 11 of the California
Plumbing Code (Part 5 (commencing with Section 101.0) of Title 24 of
the California Code of Regulations).
(9) Potential for indoor, nonpotable use of captured rainwater for
toilets and laundry.
(10) Financial and tax incentives to encourage greater capture of
rainwater and stormwater.
(11) Necessary monitoring and reporting of rainwater and
stormwater capture programs.
(12) Outcomes of existing programs that promote rainwater or
(13) The financial feasibility of each of the recommendations.
(d) Participants in the stakeholder process shall be responsible
for costs incurred as a result of their participation. The public
agency that initiates the stakeholder process shall be responsible
for the costs of the meetings and the preparation of any report on
the conclusions or recommendations of the stakeholder group.