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State and Regional Water Boards
They Must Do More to Ensure That Local Jurisdictions’ Costs to Reduce Storm Water Pollution Are Necessary and Appropriate

Report Number: 2017-118

March 1, 2018 2017-118

The Governor of California
President pro Tempore of the Senate
Speaker of the Assembly
State Capitol
Sacramento, California 95814

Dear Governor and Legislative Leaders:

As requested by the Joint Legislative Audit Committee, the California State Auditor presents this audit report concerning the State Water Resources Control Board (State Water Board) and Regional Water Quality Control Boards’ (regional boards) storm sewer system permits. To curb pollution from storm water runoff, the State Water Board and regional boards issue permits to local jurisdictions, imposing requirements to reduce pollutants in their storm water. However, the costs that local jurisdictions, including cities, counties, and other public entities, incur to comply with these requirements can be significant. This report concludes that the State Water Board and regional boards can implement policy changes and provide guidance to local jurisdictions to help ensure that these costs are necessary and appropriate.

When imposing storm water requirements, the regional boards did not adequately consider the costs that local jurisdictions would incur to comply with these requirements. Specifically, the regional boards did not always consider the overall cost of storm water management that local jurisdictions paid. Also, the State Water Board and regional boards lack consistent information on the actual costs that local jurisdictions incur to comply with storm water requirements because the State Water Board has not issued guidance on how local jurisdictions should track and report their costs. Additionally, the regional boards did not obtain all relevant information on some water bodies before imposing storm water requirements, potentially resulting in local jurisdictions incurring excessive costs or failing to meet water quality goals.

Further, the State Water Board imposed a statewide trash reduction policy that forced some local jurisdictions to spend resources to reduce trash in their water bodies rather than to address pollutants that pose a greater threat in their area. Finally, because of significant costs to address storm water pollution, the demand for grants from the State for storm water projects has far exceeded available funding.

Respectfully submitted,

State Auditor

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