State Assembly Advances Bill to Strengthen California’s Water Conservation Tools

For immediate release:

SACRAMENTO, CA — Against the backdrop of impending wildfire season and 2021 being the second driest year for California on record, the California State Assembly approved legislation by Assemblymember Jesse Gabriel (D - Woodland Hills) that will incentivize installing drought-tolerant landscaping, a key tool to combat California’s worsening drought and increase water conservation.

The bill, Assembly Bill (AB) 2142, motivates individuals to take advantage of water conservation rebates by re-establishing California’s exemption for traditional landscaping and turf replacement rebates from gross income. The bill aligns this exemption with other permanent water efficiency and energy conservation rebates

“With climate change exacerbating California’s severe droughts, extreme heat surges, and extended wildfire seasons, investment in water efficiency is critical and necessary,” said Assemblymember Gabriel. “Consumer rebates are a proven, cost-effective tool for reducing outdoor water footprint n and rewarding Californians who do their part to conserve water and adapt to our changing climate.”

This measure comes at the heels of Governor Newsom raising the possibility of statewide mandatory water restrictions and the State Water Resources Control Board voting unanimously to implement a statewide ban on watering of non-functional turf as California’s drought becomes increasingly severe. California’s large reservoirs are depleted, and the snowpack has shrunk to 12 percent of what it usually is this time of year. Scientists reported earlier this year that California’s, as part of the greater southwest North America, current megadrought is the worst in at least 1,200 years and that the human-caused climate crisis has made it 72% worse.

At a time in which it is crucial for California to invest in and expand conservation efforts, water efficiency rebates have proven to level the playing field for households of lower socioeconomic status to reduce their water footprint—a study from the service area of the Metropolitan Water District of Southern California found that 68 percent of traditional landscaping and turf replacement rebates went to low- and medium-income households. Similarly, a report from the San Diego County Water Authority found that 55 percent of rebate recipients were low- and medium-income families.

“AB 2142 will make it that much easier for Californians to participate in lawn replacement programs sponsored by their local water agency,” said Julie Hall, Senior Legislative Advocate for the Association of California Water Agencies. “In a time when we face severe drought, exempting these programs from California taxable income is an important incentive to help reduce water use.”

AB 2142 now moves to the Senate, where it is expected to be heard in policy committee in the coming weeks.