Clearer Structure, Cleaner Water: Improving Performance and Outcomes at the State Water Boards


Report #195, January 2009


In this report, the Commission calls for a reform of state and regional water boards to improve accountability, transparency and outcomes.

During its review, the Commission found that the water boards faced increasingly complex water quality problems, caused in part by hard-to-regulate sources such as urban and agricultural runoff. The Commission also found the boards had a decentralized governance structure, lacked accountability and transparency and had lost the confidence of stakeholders.

The Commission recommends that the governor and Legislature restructure the state and regional water quality boards, improve the links among them, create more transparency and accountability and make other improvements. The Commission also recommends the state restructure the membership of the state and regional boards; improve use of scientific research, planning and data, in part through an advisory board and a water data institute; increase focus on clean-water outcomes and collaboration, creativity and problem solving; and develop a standardized means to measure the costs and benefits of regulation. Coordination is lacking among the State Water Resources Control Board and the nine Regional Water Quality Control Boards. The Commission suggests strengthening ties among the boards, improving data and analyses, and taking a broader, more regional approach to addressing quality problems.