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State bill would require water providers assess earthquake risks

Sen. Bob Hertzberg in December 2014. office of Sen. Bob Hertzberg

Sen. Bob Hertzberg proposed a Water Seismic Safety (SB664) bill on Tuesday requiring local water agencies to evaluate their earthquake risks and suggest ways to keep the water flowing in the event of a disaster. 

In a state where much of the public water supply runs underground in aging, brittle pipes, or in aqueducts that cross earthquake faults, too little is known about the risks to water systems. Hertzberg's proposal aims to change that.

"This could actually provide money to start fixing some of these systems where the risks exist," Hertzberg said.

And there is in fact some money set aside for just this purpose. Last year, California voters approved a $7.5 billion water bond that provides about $810 million for risk-reduction projects.

Hertzberg said these risk evaluations could put regional water providers on the path toward receiving this state money.

Hertzberg's proposal comes on the heels of a public disclosure this week, by the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power, that it could cost up to $15 billion to safeguard the water in L.A. alone. A number, the mayor's office has said is speculative.

The state money won't come close to covering DWP's estimate for Los Angeles' risks, much less the rest of the state, but it's a start.

A hearing on this bill has not been scheduled yet.