The basics: What is Measure W?
You may have noticed your property tax got a little higher since November 2018. Upon further investigation, you discover that the government somehow found a way to tax the rain runoff from your property. Typical. Frustrating as it is to pay that tax, the passing of Measure W allowed for vital funds to drastically reduce flooding and pollution in LA county.
A parcel tax, Measure W modernizes LA county’s 100-year-old water system. But there’s some good news about the language in which the tax code is written. To put it simply, some businesses and property owners can be exempt or reduce their tax liability if they retrofit their land to retain and reuse water on site. And there are a few tactics you can use to meet compliance standards — such as capturing stormwater.
How much is the tax?
Although the tax might not break the bank for a single-family homeowner (it’s 2.5 cents per square foot of impermeable area), that adds up to about $1,000 per acre.
Think a community swimming pool is safe from the tax? Think again. The square footage of swimming pools are still taxed because there’s no beneficial reuse (drinking, watering plants) for the chemical-heavy swimming pool water.
You can opt not to install that concrete patio in favor of a porous material, like gravel or paving blocks that allow water to pass through. In that case, the area wouldn’t be subject to the tax, and you’ll actually be doing the environment — and your wallet — a favor.
Wait, what? Why do I have to capture stormwater?
Let’s get nostalgic: The water cycle
Think back to elementary school science class. The water on earth cycles between being a solid, liquid and a gas. As part of that cycle, if rain doesn’t “run off” into a lake or river, it infiltrates into the ground. When it does that, it hydrates all things green, which then “transpire” that water back into the air.
But in the urban jungle of LA, there is far less soil and greenery than there are paved roads and shopping malls. That makes the county much more prone to floods than places filled with more greenery.
These floods become more and more frequent as climate change rocks the earth. Long-term predictions for California’s rainfall show that although the amount will stay generally consistent between now and 2075, it will more commonly come in massive, drenching waves and follow with periods of extreme drought. This has the potential to flood LA and cause irreparable damage to infrastructure.
Rain a rarity? Not so much
Since rain really comes once in a blue moon in LA (compared to other parts of the world), the county isn’t built to catch large amounts of rain. This huge precipitation variability can cause some major problems for a city that’s really not prepared to hold rainwater. Overflooding is a big source of LA’s water pollution issue.
The Measure W tax penalizes the impermeable areas of your property, which are the paved, built-on surfaces. These surfaces prevent stormwater runoff from going back into the dirt and the earth as it would naturally.
Many cities such as LA can capture this storm water underground, which allows for proper filtering and treating. That means the unpolluted water can then be recycled for things we need like car washes, and watering plants. If those cleanliness standards are not met — aka, if your hose starts spewing garbage and dirty water — LA could be met with severe penalties for noncompliance later.
What do I need to know about this tax?
LA has more or less been doing this already, but they didn’t have enough funds to get to all the cities that they probably should have. The Federal Clean Water Act requires cleaning up stormwater, but it is largely an unfunded mandate, meaning 88 cities within LA county haven’t been able to keep up with water quality issues. That means that cities that may not have previously been met are now on the road to getting safer, cleaner water from rain.
How else can I reduce or eliminate my Measure W tax?
Modifying the gutters along your roof is another way to catch and recycle water on a large and small scale. Businesses that prove they already capture and reuse storm runoff can reduce or eliminate the tax, and they’ll be required to prove that they’re capturing and treating stormwater every two years.
The most efficient way to reduce your taxes and help the environment is to capture stormwater on your own property. Outsourcing from a company that is an expert at capturing this water is the best route to go to ensure you comply with standards to meet your tax credits. They’ll also calculate the ROI tax and water savings when reusing the water to be sure you’re getting the best bang for your buck.
We can help you reduce those taxes by meeting compliance to capture stormwater efficiently and cleanly. We work with large-scale properties and single-family home developers and can turn the stormwater that falls on your building into a tax-reducing, recyclable effort.