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State Waits for New Water-Efficiency Proposals

SACRAMENTO – Stakeholders statewide are reviewing and analyzing recently released new legislative language for two water-use efficiency bills that generated opposition by water agencies, including the Water Authority, when they were introduced last year.

The companion bills – AB 1668 authored by Assemblymember Laura Friedman (Burbank) and SB 606 by Sen. Bob Hertzberg (Van Nuys) –  propose a new water conservation ethic and aggressive water-use standards for Californians. Dozens of water agencies and stakeholders opposed the bills because of concerns related to enforcement of new laws and their failure to encourage development of new supplies such as potable reuse.

During winter recess in Sacramento, opponents provided more input on refinements that would be needed to earn water agencies’ support; some of those suggestions have been incorporated into the bills, but a number of important policy and implementation issues remain unresolved.

The Water Authority also remains actively engaged with local and regional organizations throughout San Diego County to communicate the agency’s policy positions on the long-term water use efficiency legislation.

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Water Authority Board Approves Bill Concepts

SACRAMENTO – Water ratepayers across California would benefit from three concepts approved by the San Diego County Water Authority’s Board of Directors for legislation in 2018, and agency staff is seeking to turn the ideas into reality.

One bill – AB 2371 – would advance a series of consensus recommendations by a state Independent Technical Panel for improving water-use efficiency in outdoor landscapes. The Water Authority is co-sponsoring the legislation with the Natural Resources Defense Council, and Assemblymember Wendy Carrillo (Los Angeles) is the bill author.

The second bill – AB 2064 – would reduce cash-flow challenges for disadvantaged communities and nonprofit organizations by ensuring opportunities for advanced payment of state grant funds. Assemblymember Todd Gloria (San Diego) and Assemblymember Shirley Weber (San Diego) are joint authors of the bill.

A third bill – SB 1277 – proposes working with organizations in the Imperial Valley to develop a governance and administrative structure that helps implement the 10-year Salton Sea Management Program. Sen. Ben Hueso (San Diego) is the bill author on behalf of the Water Authority and a variety of stakeholders.

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New Water Tax on Tap in Sacramento

SACRAMENTO – A controversial state Senate bill that would impose new taxes on California water customers is back in the legislative hopper after water agencies helped prevent its passage in 2017.

Senate Bill 623 (Monning) proposes taxing fertilizer, dairy products and water customers around the state to address groundwater pollution largely  in agricultural regions of the state.  If passed, the bill would impose a first-of-its-kind tax to raise as much as $160 million a year  to fund safe drinking water projects in disadvantaged communities.

The legislation is opposed by water agencies, including the San Diego County Water Authority, as well as numerous stakeholder organizations such as the Association of California Water Agencies, California Municipal Utilities Association, and the League of California Cities.

Opponents say the bill violates the principle of “polluter pays” by forcing urban ratepayers to cover up to 85 percent of the cost. They believe more money for drinking water pollution cleanup should come from the agricultural and dairy industries, which would pay just 15 percent of the cost under SB 623.

Opponents are advocating for alternative revenue sources for cleanup work, for instance, money from the state’s general fund, federal safe drinking water funds, general obligation bond funds, and proposed assessments related to nitrates in groundwater.

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Spring Forward By Checking Irrigation Systems When Changing Clocks

Start of daylight saving time is a prompt to ensure efficient outdoor water use

San Diego, Calif. – The start of daylight saving time on March 11 offers residents a seasonal reminder to check their irrigation systems for efficient operations when they change their clocks.

Salton Sea workshop meeting people

Workshop Highlights Progress at the Salton Sea

EL CENTRO – High-ranking agency officials delivered a simple – but critical – message during a standing-room only forum on Salton Sea issues in early March: The current Salton Sea Management Plan represents the best path forward for addressing immediate needs at the sea while laying the groundwork for long-term restoration.

Speakers emphasized that for the first time the State of California has a feasible plan for meeting its restoration obligations under state legislation related to the 2003 Colorado River Quantification Settlement Agreement.

In addition, funding sources are materializing to help make the management plan a reality and protect public health. Proposition 68, a water bond that would provide $200 million for Salton Sea restoration, will go to California voters in June. If approved, that bond would add on to an earlier bond that provided $80 million for Salton Sea restoration.

The March 5 workshop was the first of two organized by IID, the San Diego County Water Authority, Imperial County and the California Natural Resources Agency to keep the public informed about state restoration efforts at the sea. The state is working under the Stipulated Order, an amendment to the state’s original water order approving the 2003 Quantification Settlement Agreement. The Stipulated Order – drafted by IID, the Water Authority and Imperial County, with support from Natural Resources and environmental organizations – requires the state to provide 30,000 acres of habitat and air quality projects at the sea over the next 10 years.

Speakers included IID General Manager Kevin Kelley, IID Water Manager Tina Shields, Imperial County Deputy County Executive Officer Andy Horne, Water Authority Assistant General Manager Dan Denham and Natural Resources Assistant Secretary Bruce Wilcox, who oversees Salton Sea policies. Each speaker discussed the importance of the Stipulated Order for ensuring annual progress on the State’s Salton Sea Management Program, a phased approach to restoration.

Presenters made several key points, including that the longstanding environmental issues at the sea will not be solved by work done under the first 10 years of the management plan. Under the Stipulated Order, the state must have a long-term restoration plan in place in 2022. Denham emphasized that progress toward restoration must quickly translate to on-the-ground projects.

Kelley said it’s also crucial that other Basin States endorse the Salton Sea Management Plan – which they have begun to do – because a unified front could ultimately deliver more positive results.

While the state restoration program is in the earliest stages, a separate effort has been under way since the QSA was signed to implement an environmental mitigation program that addresses any impacts associated with the QSA. That mitigation program – led by a Joint Powers Authority comprising IID, the Water Authority, Coachella Valley Water District and the State of California –  provided mitigation water to the Sea for the first 15 years of the QSA until December 2017.

As of 2018, the mitigation focus shifted to an air quality program that includes on-the-ground projects, which can work together with the state’s restoration program. Already, the JPA has funded pilot projects on more than 1,000 acres near the sea. This year, 3,000 acres of new dust control projects are planned.

Risk Management and Safe Work Practices Earn Sweetwater Authority an Insurance Refund

Chula Vista, Calif. – On February 28, 2018, Sweetwater Authority (Authority) received a refund check of $423,770 from the Association of California Water Agencies-Joint Powers Insurance Authority (JPIA).

Through risk sharing pools, the JPIA provides the Authority with liability, property, and worker’s compensation insurance. By adopting good risk management practices, and implementing a comprehensive suite of safe work procedures, claims are minimized and savings are achieved. Those savings are then passed on to the JPIA member agencies.

‘Fix a Leak Week’ Rebates Available for Sweetwater Authority Customers

Chula Vista, Calif. – In honor of Fix a Leak Week, Sweetwater Authority (Authority) is offering rebates of up to $75 for leak repairs made in March 2018. For an application and additional information on how to apply for the rebate, please visit the Sweetwater Authority website.

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Free WaterSmart Landscaping Class Series Returns in March

Participants receive expert advice and develop a personalized landscape plan

San Diego, Calif. – Looking for a way to spruce up your yard and trim water use at the same time? The San Diego County Water Authority is here to help with two new sessions of the four-part WaterSmart Landscape Makeover Series starting in March.

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Wanted: Large Landscapes for Program Proven to Reduce Irrigation Water Use

Participants receive training, state-of-the-art tools to cut outdoor demand by at least 20 percent

San Diego, Calif. – The San Diego County Water Authority seeks approximately 20 commercial-scale landscapes for participation in a program that has demonstrated significant outdoor water-use reductions through a combination of training, hardware upgrades and technical assistance valued at more than $15,000 per site.

Sweetwater Authority Executes $23 Million Bond Sale – Funds Major Infrastructure Improvement Projects

Chula Vista, Calif. – On Tuesday, November 28, Sweetwater Authority (Authority) successfully completed a bond sale of $23 million to fund five major infrastructure improvement projects. These projects include improvements to Sweetwater and Loveland Dams, a new storage tank, replacement of an aged 36-inch transmission main, and other system improvements.