Water for the 21st Century
Ensuring safe and sufficient water supplies for the 21st century requires significant investments in our water infrastructure and natural ecosystems. After five decades of divisive wrangling, the time has arrived for the governor to provide real leadership and solve our longstanding water problems. The goal must be to maintain and enhance water supplies for all Californians and take action to restore the Bay-Delta and meet California's true water needs.
With California facing one of the most severe droughts on record, Governor Brown declared a drought State of Emergency in January and directed state officials to take all necessary actions to prepare for water shortages. The state has continued to lead the way to make sure California is able to cope with an unprecedented drought.
The California Water Action Plan
The California Water Action Plan is the state's official water policy and was updated and released today. The purpose of the plan is to lay out the actions that must be taken to protect water supplies for people and the environment and to fix the state's critical water resource problems.
California's water system faces a number of difficult challenges including: uncertain water supplies, drought, water quality, habitat loss, flooding and climate change. The California Water Action Plan details 10 primary actions the Administration has taken - and is continuing to take - to address these challenges, and deliver a more reliable water supply.
1. Making water conservation a way of life in California:
The Governor issued Executive Order B-29-15 to save water and streamline the state's response to the drought - including a mandatory 25 percent reduction in water use. Californians stepped up to meet the challenge, cutting consumption 26 percentfrom June to November 2015. The state also released a water-efficient landscape ordinance and launched a rebate program for replacing turf and old, inefficient toilets. Approximately $50 million in grants was issued for agricultural water-use efficiency projects.
2. Increasing self-reliance and integrating water management across levels of government:
In January 2015, the state began implementation of the Sustainable Groundwater Management Act, a landmark law requiring local governments to sustainably manage groundwater in California. Meanwhile, the state accelerated approximately $232 million in local grants for improving water supplies and integrating them with state conservation efforts. The state's investment in water recycling increased tenfold, to $257 million in grants and loans. The State Water Resources Control Board (Water Board) also adopted uniform criteria for desalination facilities and issued a regulatory decision to boost storm water capture.
3. Developing a more reliable and sustainable water supply in the Delta:
In April, state and federal officials announced California WaterFix and California EcoRestore to meet the goals of water supply reliability and habitat restoration in the Delta. The purpose of California WaterFix is to end the current pattern of reversed water flows in the Delta caused by water pumps. EcoRestore is the state's plan for restoring at least 30,000 acres of habitat.
4. Protecting habitat for fish and wildlife:
In November, California completed the largest dam removal in California history, removing the 100-foot San Clemente Dam to open 25 miles of habitat to restore natural flows to the Carmel River and support native fish. California continued investing in the Lake Tahoe watershed, with more than $650 million in funding since 1997. The Governor formed the Salton Sea Task Force, signed legislation to protect air quality and habitat in the area and appointed a new assistant secretary to develop a long-term management plan. In the face of historic drought, the Water Board took action to maintain minimal water flows in key tributaries to prevent the extinction of fish and wildlife.
5. Preparing for more frequent and severe droughts:
In March, the Governor signed a $1 billion emergency drought package to help communities across California. In April, the Governor announced actions to save water, increase enforcement and invest in new technologies. In response, the Water Board took action to curtail water rights and installed a barrier to curb salt water intrusion. The state also continued providing millions of dollars in support for communities where wells are running dry.
6. Expanding water storage and managing groundwater supplies:
Proposition 1 dedicated $2.7 billion for investments in water storage projects and designates the California Water Commission as the agency responsible for appropriating the funds. The state also began implementing the Sustainable Groundwater Management Act in partnership with local agencies. The state also released a preliminary list of 21 groundwater basins that have been significantly overdrafted by excessive pumping and implemented regulations defining the boundaries of groundwater basins.
7. Delivering safe water for everyone:
Last year, the Water Board published the Safe Drinking Water Plan for California, which assessd the quality of the state's drinking water and detailed strategies for improving quality. The Water Board also created the Office of Sustainable Water Solutions to support clean and safe drinking water, particularly in disadvantaged communities. The state launched a $260 million grant program for drinking water infrastructure improvements and authorized $29 million for well replacement and emergency water delivery and $5 million to help Californians on private wells.
8. Increasing flood protection:
The state has launched the California Storm Ready website to help Californians prepare for potentially intense storms and flooding triggered by El Niño weather patterns. The state completed inspections of 1,600 miles of state-owned levees and finalized the Delta Flood Emergency Management Plan. The state also trained more than 1,000 public agency staff on flood fighting methods and briefed approximately 700 flood managers on emergency procedures. $343 million in local flood-reduction projects were announced to better protect approximately $1 billion in assets.
9. Efficiently operating the State Water Project and Central Valley Project:
The state joined with federal officials to request an unbiased assessment of the Delta's future under status-quo management. Scientists authored a report, Challenges Facing the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta, that confirms the current management is unsustainable and recommends a solution based on science. State and federal water managers and regulatory agencies launched a new program to improve communication and more flexibly manage, in real time, the water systems for the benefit of people and fish and wildlife.
10. Seeking new water resource funding sources:
In 2015, the state committed approximately $4.8 billion of the $7.545 billion in Proposition 1 funding for ecosystem and watershed protection, infrastructure, and drinking water protection.
Implementing the California Water Action Plan requires agency cooperation and continued commitment to achieving all 10 of these actions through 2019. Some of the efforts this year will include: millions of dollars in new grant awards, finalizing regulations on water recycling, finalizing environmental approvals for California WaterFix, finalizing regulations for the water storage program under Proposition 1 and continuing flood protection efforts.
For more information on the updated California Water Action Plan, including a summary of the state's ongoing action, visit: http://resources.ca.gov/california_water_action_plan/.