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Water

The water supply system that supports most of California’s residents, businesses and underpins its ecological health is facing unprecedented challenges. Coordinated near- and long-term actions to address constraints and conflicts are needed if we are to realize the co-equal values of adequate water supply for California, and ecosystem health and revitalization.  Given the breadth and statewide impact of the crisis, the interest of the business community is coincident with that of the general public. 

Guiding Principles

  • The State of California has lead responsibility to develop a new water and ecological “master plan” along with an appropriate governance structure to ensure a healthy Delta ecosystem and to assure all residents and businesses in the state reasonable access to sufficient good quality water to meet existing and future reasonable demands.

The current crisis is in large part caused and compounded by the many disparate government agencies and interests with the ability to affect ecosystem health and water quality and supply, with no single agency responsible to assure adequate water supplies and ecosystem health. Compounding the problem is the lack of an integrated plan for achieving a reliable state water supply and ecological vision.

The State controls the State Water Project, the state regulatory system, and has access to funding for critical large capital improvements.

The State has standing and relationships to coordinate water supply solutions with the federal government, a key player in the state’s water supply system.

  • The State’s actions should be guided by science-based and fiscally prudent solutions.

Any proposed solution must be supported by credible and peer-reviewed scientific, engineering, environmental and economic assessments. We understand the Bay Delta Conservation Program, Delta Risk Management Study and other modeling analyses are also underway to examine what combination of levees, storage, conservation, water marketing, Delta land use and farm management practices, and conveyance strategies will provide the best operational system to secure water supplies and contribute to a coordinated state strategy to resuscitate a devastated Delta ecology. Once these studies are presented, vetted and compared, we should have the tools to make the ultimate decisions on how best to protect, restore, and sustain a rich Delta ecology, maintain the vitality of our great agricultural central valley, and ensure adequate drinking water for our growing population.

Recent experience with major state water bonds has proven that there is no clear connection between funds approved and the timing or amount of actual water supply improvements. Any bond should focus on building infrastructure that will predictably yield measurable environmental and water supply benefits.

  • The Sacramento San Joaquin Delta is the highest priority water issue in California.  

The Delta is critical to the ecology of the state as well as the State Water Project and the Central Valley Water Project operations that provide the foundation for California’s water supply system and the economy it supports. The Delta is in crisis and a comprehensive technical and governance solution must be adopted that restores stability to the State’s water and ecological systems.

  • All reasonable immediate and short-term actions to improve water supply and environmental conditions in the Delta utilizing available funding and legal authority should be taken without delay.

Implementation of short- and intermediate-term steps to improve Delta ecology and water supply stability should not wait for progress in developing other water supply options such as conservation, storage, and recycling, although given the statewide situation all such strategies should be pursued as well. The state DWR should complete all pending environmental and feasibility studies as soon as possible to guide a final decision on long-term Delta environmental and water infrastructure improvements. These studies should be informed by the Governor’s Delta Vision process and all relevant data and solutions identified in the Cal-Fed Process and related processes.

  • While there are clear areas where reform is warranted from a business perspective, given the seriousness of the crisis and complexity of the current system, all efforts should be focused on actions that will most predictably result in significant and sustainable water supply and environmental improvements. At the same time, to sustain a broad consensus on a water solution, we will likely need to address basic conservation strategies concurrent with conveyance and storage improvements.

  • The R.E.A.L. Coalition encourages local self-help initiatives including conservation, water system re-operation, recycling, conjunctive use, desalination, and other strategies, and will encourage appropriate funding to help local and regional agencies develop projects in these areas.

While a Delta solution will help to stabilize existing supplies, most water agencies around the state are relying on these local initiatives for water security and for any new supplies they may want for their customers. Conservation is a clear component of any state and regional water strategy and should be required of all regions of California and all sectors of the economy. While the recently announced 20% water conservation target by 2020 is a worthy goal, we should be cautious of a “one-size fits all” approach.  Furthermore, it is important to acknowledge those who have already conserved, and recognize the role water marketing and other market-based strategies can play in helping achieve conservation goals where savings can most readily be made. The business community is ready to help meet this challenge in partnership with other stakeholders, as everyone in the state must do their part to help meet this target. To insure that implementation is fair, effective and sustainable, sufficient funds must be included in any bond for these important initiatives. Conservation targets should be integrated into water management plans, with detailed discussion of how these targets will be met.

  • The state should encourage and offer bond financing support for cost-effective water supply, storage, water quality and local self-help reliability projects – providing matching funds to meet future water needs. Water project bonds to finance needed environmental and water system improvements will be an integral part of solving these two problems.  Furthermore, we support an approach that: 

  • Includes a balance of expenditures for environmental recovery and enhancement, water system conveyance and storage improvements, water system operational improvements, and assistance to local and regional agencies for self-help opportunities such as conservation, water system re-operation, recycling, conjunctive use, desalination, and other strategies;

  • Requires projects to compete for bond proceeds based on the technical, scientific and financial merits of each project, including beneficiary match requirements for major storage projects. All necessary studies for major infrastructure projects should be completed and properly vetted before construction fund commitments are earmarked or committed;

  • Embraces the “beneficiary pays” principle; and

  • Allows private water utilities regulated by the PUC to compete with public agencies for these funds.


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