Senator Wieckowski Introduces Crucial Water Conservation Bill

Excise tax on excessive consumption to fund local and statewide water conservation efforts

June 10, 2015

Sacramento - With the impact of California’s historic drought reaching record proportions, Senator Bob Wieckowski (D-Fremont) has introduced a bill to allow local water authorities to levy an excise tax on excessive water users to fund critical water conservation measures. The bill, SB 789, would allow local water agencies to impose the tax at a rate not to exceed 300% of the purchase price of the water. Wieckowski chairs the Senate Committee on Environmental Quality.

“California’s economy and way of life are being threatened by this historic drought. The Governor and Legislature have taken some excellent actions to provide short-term and long-term relief.  This is another measure that will give local agencies the much needed flexibility to change the bad behaviors of water guzzlers,” Wieckowski said.  “There is no excuse for excessive water use. Whether it is mega-mansions keeping their lawns lush and green, bottled water companies buying a town’s water cheap and selling for large profit, or companies using way too much water in the production of their goods or services, local entities should have the ability to charge them appropriately for their wasteful consumption.”

The measure is voluntary.  The bill only allows, but does not force, a local water agency to impose the tax. Revenue generated from the tax will be equally distributed between the local water agency and the State Water Resources Control Board.  All proceeds will go directly to water conservation efforts. 

SB 789 has an urgency clause, which would allow it to go into effect immediately upon signature of the Governor. Recently, the State instituted mandatory drought measures adopted in accordance with the Governor’s Executive Order.  The emergency regulations require an immediate 25 percent reduction in potable urban water use throughout California.