Winter Newsletter

Localizing California Waters

For the past several years COWA’s leadership has partnered in the development of Localizing California Waters, a conference that connects unlikely allies in the broader goal of water management throughout California by discussing local water approaches in an intimate setting. LCW brings together resource scientists, designers, installers and water resource leaders to work towards an outcome of innovative solutions to local climate challenges.

This year’s conference took place November 5-8 at the Rush Creek and Evergreen Lodges in Yosemite. The range in presentations, topics and speakers keeps LCW at the forefront of the California’s water resource conversation. This year’s list of speakers included:

Erik Ekdahl – Deputy Director for the State Water Board’s Division of Water Rights
Dennis O’Connor – Principal Consultant to the California Senate Committee on Natural Resources and Water
Celeste Cantu- Vice Chair of the San Diego Water Quality Control Board
Brad Lancaster – Author of ‘Rainwater Harvesting for Drylands and Beyond', an expert in rainwater harvesting and water management
Debbie Franco - Senior Advisor of Water and Rural Affairs in the California Governor's Office of Planning and Research
Phil Isenberg – Former Mayor of Sacramento, and 14-year member of the California State Assembly
Mark Buehrer – Founder and Director of 2020 Engineering and an authority on Low Impact Development (LID) Technologies
Bob Wilkinson – Professor at UC Santa Barbara Bren School of Environmental Science and Management
The Ancestral Guard – an indigenous organizing
 network whose programs combine Traditional ecological knowledge, science and values of world renewal

This year, LCW hosted its first Tech Faire to promote the unique integration of emerging green and natural infrastructure technologies. Following the conference, COWA debuted its newest training course: Integrated Water Management Design, featuring a presentation from Mike Collignon of the Green Building Coalition’s WERS program and COWA Board Director Tony Madrone.

LCW Regional meetings are currently under development. 
More information at


SB-966 was passed by both the State Senate and Assembly without opposition, and the bill was accepted by the Governor’s office on 9/28/18. 

The legislation requires the State Water Resources Control Board together with the California Building Standards Commission and the Department of Housing and Development Community to adopt new standards for onsite water systems.  They are charged to work with local jurisdictions to establish local programs for onsite nonpotable water systems that include risk-based water quality standards. The ordinances go into effect on or before December 1, 2023. 

This legislation allows the State Board to contact public and private entities to speak to the content of these requirements.  More information about SB-966 can be found here.  We invite you to comment on this and make recommendations on the COWA Web forum here.  Consider also, the recent report – Risk-Based Framework for the Development of Public Health Guidance for Decentralized Non-Potable Water Systems (WERF Project No. SIWM10C15)

This developing legislation is a strategic opportunity to streamline and modernize regulatory requirements and leverage vocational and economic development across our industry.

Growing Opportunities in a Changing World

California recently witnessed immediate indications of climate change and its effect on resource availability and fire security. Planned electrical outages took place throughout the state from October 9-12, affecting more than 700,000 customers and millions of Californians, including vulnerable groups like schools and hospitals. Multiple smaller outages occurred thereafter.

The blackouts were conducted to curb the risk of devastating firestorms like the one that took place in Paradise and scores of others across the western states in recent years.  PG&E officials have acknowledged that similar blackouts are expected to continue for a decade. The effects of these blackouts on businesses, fire insurance rates, natural environments, local economies and public health won’t be fully understood for some time. It’s clear that local energy independence and fire security measures are central to finding solutions to local climate challenges.

What does this mean for the onsite water industry in California?  There are several opportunities for decentralized system designers and service providers to expand their business portfolios and meet this pressing need:

-Design and installation of metal or underground Fire-security water tanks as part of a fire suppression system.  The National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) provides standards for fire protection systems.

-Where existing rain or other water tanks exist, retrofitting with fire service compatible hook-ups is a simple, effective way to support water availability to fire protection districts within wildland urban interface regions where distributed water availability is limited.  Even Polyethylene tanks can be modified to provide a degree of protection with little additional cost to the consume.

-Connection of existing interior or exterior fire suppression systems to onsite water supply via off-grid solar, dedicated battery back-up or generators, would ensure these systems continue to function in the event of a power outage.

-Integration of fire resilient landscape and stormwater measures could be used to increase fuel moisture and decrease overall fuel load within the defensible space of a structure.

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