Rain this week, coming after an exceptionally dry winter and April, should give a boost to backyard gardeners and provide a brief reprieve from what has become an almost omnipresent wildfire danger in the San Diego County.
Archive for date: May 1st, 2018
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California’s 2014 legislation, the Sustainable Groundwater Management Act (SGMA) was significant in that it was the state’s first major groundwater regulation. But Michael Kiparsky the founding director of the Wheeler Water Institute at the University of California Berkeley School of Law, says that it was also significant in another way. “It breaks with what had been decades of a legal fiction that groundwater and surface water were not part of a single hydrologic system,” he says. While rivers, lakes and other surface waters are often thought of – and regulated – separately from the groundwater below, the two are connected.
Twenty years and $50 million into the process, officials with desalination plant purveyor Poseidon are optimistic they will get their final two permits — possibly by year’s end. Here are the key steps ahead for the plant in Huntington Beach: Term sheet. This non-binding working agreement lays the groundwork for an eventual contract for Poseidon to sell its water to the Orange County Water District. The district is currently updating its 2015 term sheet and may have a draft to present to the OCWD board in June. Federal financing. A Water Infrastructure Finance and Innovation Act loan would reduce the cost of loans.
Environmental consequences aside, it would seem to make a certain amount of sense to dam a river in order to store and distribute water where and when it is most needed. But what if there’s no river? Or more to the point, what if every river that can be dammed already has been dammed, and the water in those rivers has already been tapped? The value of new, giant dams is extremely limited and costly without new giant rivers to fill them, and California has no such new rivers.
The day of reckoning is drawing near for Huntington Beach’s long-planned desalination plant, which would help quench Orange County’s thirst with sea water and free up imported water for the rest of the Southern California. Twenty years and $50 million into the process, officials with plant purveyor Poseidon are optimistic they will get their final two permits — possibly by year’s end. They tout the project as a drought-proof source of water that will provide a stable supplement to the more volatile groundwater and imported sources in a future filled with aquatic uncertainties.
I have spent my entire career in the operations side of water utilities. I began as a part time student engineer in the City of San Diego’s Water Department’s Production Division and am now Director of Operations and Maintenance at the San Diego County Water Authority responsible for a staff of 85 and an annual budget of $19 million. Each step along the way has provided new opportunities to expand my operational knowledge and build the lasting relationships that are critical to job success and career development when you’re an engineer in an operations environment.
Arizona’s largest water provider tried Tuesday to defuse a multi-state dispute over the Colorado River, saying it regretted the belligerent-sounding words it used to describe its management strategy for the critical, over-used waterway. The Central Arizona Project, which provides water to about 5 million people, pledged to be more cooperative with other river users and promised “to have a more respectful and transparent dialogue in the future.” The river serves 40 million people in seven U.S. states and Mexico, and consumption is tightly regulated and closely monitored.
In an effort to maintain water storage in the city’s only drinking water reservoir, Loch Lomond, the Santa Cruz City Council adopted a Stage 1 Water Shortage Alert, which takes effect Tuesday. Below normal rainfall and runoff, coupled with water supply needs for fish habitat, have reduced the amount of water available for city of Santa Cruz water customers. During water shortages, customers are restricted from landscape watering between 10 a.m. and 5 p.m. from using a hose without a shut-off nozzle, washing down hard or paved surfaces and filling swimming pools.
Then California’s Orange County Water District began distributing drinking water derived from sewage in the mid-1970s, it acted out of simple need. The aquifer it relied on for most of its drinking water had been so overdrawn that saltwater from the nearby Pacific Ocean was seeping into it, and allocation limits prevented increases in exports from the Colorado River and Sierra Nevada Mountains, sources of the rest of the district’s water. Orange County was then a bastion of political conservatism, not the sort of place associated with environmental innovation, but water scarcity is a powerful motivator.
Like a bad penny, a plan to tax water keeps turning up in Sacramento.
That’s right: under two proposals circulating in the Capitol, California would start taxing the most fundamental resource on the planet. Such taxes would needlessly drive up costs for families already struggling to make ends meet and undermine the very goals that proponents profess.
Senate Bill 623 by state Sen. William Monning (Carmel) and a budget trailer bill supported by Governor Brown would add a tax to local residential and business water bills in the name of providing safe, clean drinking water to disadvantaged communities, mostly in the Central Valley.
There’s no question that some Californians in low-income, rural areas don’t enjoy the same level of safe drinking water delivered by the San Diego County Water Authority and its 24 member agencies. That’s why the Water Authority and many other water agencies statewide have made it a priority to promote sensible funding strategies to address this important issue. We are committed to delivering safe and reliable water, and we wholeheartedly support the goal of ensuring the same for all Californians.
Water tax proposal hurts the people it is intended to help
But taxing water isn’t the right approach.
Among the many problems with this is strategy is that it sets a bad precedent. California currently does not tax water or essential food products. However, even before the first proposed water tax has been voted on, two additional water tax proposals have already emerged in Sacramento. Both of those taxes would drive up water bills by as much as $15 to $20 each month.
The cost of living in California is already high, and taxing drinking water works against the very people that the funds are intended to help.
Of course, Californians overwhelmingly object to legislation that would create a new tax on drinking water, according to a recent poll of likely 2018 voters. In all, 73 percent said they opposed the Senate legislation. Over half said they “strongly opposed” the measure, while just 8 percent said they “strongly supported” it.
Thankfully, there are better alternatives.
California appropriately uses its general fund to pay for other important programs and social issues identified as state priorities, including public health, education, housing and disability services. The public supports using the general fund to pay for programs that serve and protect residents and communities in need.
Dozens of local water agencies, chambers and other groups have joined together to advance more appropriate funding solutions – a package that includes federal safe drinking water funds, voter-approved general obligation bond dollars, cap-and-trade revenues, agricultural fees related to nitrate in drinking water, and general fund money. With this approach, we can address an important issue for our state without adding a tax on our most precious natural resource.