“Stormwater has traditionally been considered a nuisance or danger in terms of flooding and water quality,” says the Pacific Institute’s Morgan Shimabuku, lead author of Stormwater Capture in California: Innovative Policies and Funding Opportunities, “But we’re starting to see it as more of a resource with potential for water supply.” Shimabuku notes that stormwater capture is also “a great strategy for adapting to climate change, alleviating the impact of high-intensity rainstorms and reducing dependence on other water sources in times of drought.” The report describes innovations in stormwater management in the Bay Area and beyond, including recent San Francisco ordinances that require builders of projects with large impervious surfaces to install and maintain stormwater capture infrastructure; projects larger than 250,000 square feet must treat and reuse all water, including stormwater, onsite. San Mateo County uses a vehicle registration surcharge to pay for permeable pavement, reducing polluted road runoff and helping to recharge groundwater. Stormwater is part of Santa Monica’s strategy for achieving water independence by 2022, while elsewhere in California it’s being used to recharge groundwater basins. Funding remains a challenge: “In California, state-level entities need to find more funding to support local stormwater capture projects,” says Shimabuku. That could include tapping into federal Clean Water and Drinking Water Revolving Funds that the state disburses. Recent legislation might allow local governments to create stormwater capture fees without voter approval, but that may only be determined once a test case works its way through the courts.

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Innovative stormwater management strategies throughout California are pioneering new ways to capture and use stormwater to augment local water supplies and prepare for climate change, according to a new report. “Stormwater has traditionally been considered a nuisance or danger in terms of flooding and water quality,” says the Pacific Institute's Morgan Shimabuku, lead author of Stormwater Capture in California: Innovative Policies and Funding Opportunities, “But we’re starting to see it as more of a resource with potential for water supply.” Shimabuku notes that stormwater capture is also “a great strategy for adapting to climate change, alleviating the impact of high-intensity rainstorms and reducing dependence on other water sources in times of drought.” The report describes innovations in stormwater management in the Bay Area and beyond, including recent San Francisco ordinances that require builders of projects with large impervious surfaces to install and maintain stormwater capture infrastructure; projects larger than 250,000 square feet must treat and reuse all water, including stormwater, onsite. San Mateo County uses a vehicle registration surcharge to pay for permeable pavement, reducing polluted road runoff and helping to recharge groundwater. Stormwater is part of Santa Monica’s strategy for achieving water independence by 2022, while elsewhere in California it’s being used to recharge groundwater basins. Funding remains a challenge: “In California, state-level entities need to find more funding to support local stormwater capture projects,” says Shimabuku. That could include tapping into federal Clean Water and Drinking Water Revolving Funds that the state disburses. Recent legislation might allow local governments to create stormwater capture fees without voter approval, but that may only be determined once a test case works its way through the courts.

About the author

Joe Eaton writes about endangered and invasive species, climate and ecosystem science, environmental history, and water issues for ESTUARY. He is also "a semi-obsessive birder" whose pursuit of rarities has taken him to many of California's shores, wetlands, and sewage plants.