ACWA Testifies at Budget Subcommittee on Funding for Save Our Water, Long-Term Conservation

ACWA provided testimony Tuesday on funding requests for Save Our Water and long-term conservation in Gov. Jerry Brown’s revised state budget proposal, which was issued last week.

In a hearing before the Assembly Budget Subcommittee #3 on Resources and Transportation, ACWA Director of State Legislative Relations Wendy Ridderbusch commented on a $1 million funding request for the Save Our Water program as well as a request for five new positions to establish a new water conservation unit within the State Water Resources Control Board to implement the Brown Administration’s final report, “Making Conservation a California Way of Life,” which was released April 7.

The $1 million requested for Save Our Water in the May revision of the budget is down from the $2 million requested in the initial budget proposal in January. The reduction reflects the end of the drought emergency but recognizes the need for ongoing messaging on making conservation a way of life.

Save Our Water, managed by ACWA in partnership with the California Department of Water Resources, is the state’s umbrella public education program on water conservation.

Ridderbusch voiced opposition to a recommendation from the Legislative Analyst’s Office to reject the Administration’s proposed $1 million for Save Our Water. Citing the end of the drought emergency, the LAO suggested there were higher priorities for general fund dollars and noted that local water agencies already are undertaking locally funded messaging campaigns on water conservation.

“We oppose the LAO’s recommendation to reject the Administration’s proposal to allocate $1 million to the successful Save Our Water effort,” Ridderbusch said. “I don’t think it’s possible to separate the impressive water conservation numbers in recent years from the influence of the Save Our Water campaign. The program and its messaging are based on statewide research that includes public attitude surveys and focus groups. These research findings have been shared broadly and publicly and have helped to inform both statewide and local education efforts.”

Though a subcommittee staff analysis concurred with the LAO’s recommendation, subcommittee Chair Richard Bloom (D-Santa Monica) said conservation messaging remains a priority and indicated he was not inclined to vote to reject the $1 million funding request.

Ridderbusch and representatives of several ACWA member agencies also testified in opposition to the budget funding request to create five new positions in a new water conservation unit at the State Water Board, calling it premature to consider the positions while discussions continue on several legislative proposals on long-term water use efficiency and drought planning. The LAO recommended rejecting the proposal.

“ACWA and its member agencies are fully engaged and participating in discussions on the suite of water conservation bills moving through the Legislature,” Ridderbusch said. “The policy committee process, which provides more transparency and opportunity for thoughtful impact, is the best venue to address the issue of water conservation.”

The subcommittee did not vote on either proposal but left them as “open issues” for potential action later as the state moves closer to the budget deadline of June 15.