By Brandon Pensick, ECA President Email: [email protected]

The State Water Resources Control Board has just added a new set of regulatory burdens to your water and sewer projects funded by the state revolving funds—which is most of our work these days.

The action came at the February 22nd water board meeting in Sacramento in the form of a ”Resolution adopting a comprehensive response to climate change,” which is an update to a much less comprehensive measure passed in 2007.

The Kitchen Sink of Impacts

The resolution says “climate change” is to blame for a laundry list of “water quality impacts that include, but are not limited to:”

….dry periods and drought lowering stream flow and reducing dilution of pollutant discharges, harmful algal blooms due to a combination of warm waters, reduced ability of warm water to hold dissolved oxygen, and nutrient pollution, more erosion and sedimentation caused by intense rainfall events, especially following wildfire, and increased velocity of stream flow, potential sewer overflows due to more intense precipitation and increased storm water runoff, rising sea levels inundating low- lands, displacing wetlands, and altering tidal ranges, and increasing areas subject to saltwater intrusion into groundwater, and water pollution and increased absorption of carbon dioxide creating coastal zone “hotspots” of acidification and hypoxia.

Wow, what a list…just about everything from acne to thermonuclear war.

This resolution sets out directives to State Water Board divisions, offices and recommendations to Regional Water Quality Control Boards, for actions to account for and “embed climate change into existing work,” both to “mitigate greenhouse gas emissions and to build resilience to the impacts of climate change,” according to the resolution.

Impacts on Contractors

So here’s the impact of the resolution on contractors: a lot of paperwork, include “tracking and reporting on actions to mitigate greenhouse gases,” and potentially more direct damage—reducing hours on projects to reduce emissions or making specific equipment requirements to reduce greenhouse gases—none of which is in the current rules from the California Air Resources Board.

The directives in the resolution are guidelines and policies only and no specific regulation is created by the resolution. That will come down the regulatory road in a few months (and with the flooding issues that surfaced this winter, maybe later) and we will continue to try to slow the SWRBC staff down—by participating in their “process” through the Construction Industry Water Quality Council that ECA helped to found decades ago.

Whenever the final regulations become effective we will keep you informed on the changes.