California Dolphin: statewide California news

Editorial: Prop. 72 rewards homeowners for conserving water

Rather than letting rain falling on the roof run off into gutters and storm drains, the water could be used to irrigate yards. But homeowners are currently penalized with higher property taxes if they install systems to capture the rainwater.
That would change if voters pass Proposition 72 on the June 5 ballot. The measure, which deserves support, would exclude rainwater capture systems from tax assessments, giving property owners a needed incentive to help the state meet its water conservation goals.
California voters approved similar measures in the 1980s and 1990s to support installation of solar panels, upgrades for people with disabilities and fire sprinklers. The author of Prop. 72, state Sen. Steve Glazer, D-Orinda, hopes it will make rainwater capture as popular as solar installation. That’s a lofty goal. But any sensible effort to combat drought deserves support. Prop. 72 meets that standard.
Glazer introduced SB 558 in the Legislature last fall, hoping it would win sufficient backing to put it before voters, as required by state law. In a rare show of bipartisan support, the bill was passed 76-0 in the Assembly and 39-0 in the state Senate and was signed by Gov. Jerry Brown in January.  Prop. 72 has no organized opposition, and environmental groups, business groups and the Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Association have gotten behind the ballot measure.
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Rainwater capture systems are not cheap. A tank capable of storing 5,000 gallons of water costs between $2,500-$5,000, depending on whether it is made of plastic or steel. Those costs may come down if more people install tanks on their property.
A home with a 1,500-square-foot roof is capable of collecting 10,000 gallons of water in an area that gets 12 inches of rain a year. San Jose, for example, averages 15 inches of rain a typical year, while Walnut Creek gets 23 inches.
The rainfall that is captured can’t be used for drinking. But it is suitable for watering gardens and landscaping and for filling ponds.
Glazer notes that Australia has had great success with offering rainfall capture incentives. Nearly a third of Australian homes have installed systems.
The impetus for the California legislation came from a community meeting. A Walnut Creek resident had installed four rainwater capture tanks and told Glazer that she thought more property owners would do the same if provided with greater incentives.
“I worked hard to simplify this legislation,” said Glazer. “But in its simplest form it’s designed to provide the same kind of tax incentives that we have with electric cars and solar energy. It could also inspire developers to install systems when building new homes.”
Californians have demonstrated the ability to be conservation-minded citizens when given the opportunity. Proposition 72 eliminates a tax penalty for home owners trying to help the state conserve water. Vote yes on June 5.

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