As California enters what is expected to be a fourth year of drought, the State Water Resources Control Board is reviewing a request from environmentalists to suspend Los Angeles Department of Water and Power diversions from Mono Lake in the Eastern Sierra Nevada. In its request, the nonprofit Mono Lake Committee argues that the combination of drought and diversions from streams that feed the lake are exposing the lake bottom near islands that host one of the world’s largest nesting gull populations.
Water affordability for ratepayers was the topic of discussion during a legislative roundtable Thursday at the San Diego County Water Authority.
The Water Authority convened state, regional and local officials in search of winning strategies for enhancing water affordability for ratepayers across the county and the state.
Water agency managers, board members, elected officials and their representatives from throughout the county joined E. Joaquin Esquivel, chair of the State Water Resources Control Board, to assess and address water affordability issues.
Esquivel was appointed to the Water Resources Control Board by Governor Jerry Brown in March 2017. In February 2019, Governor Gavin Newsom named Esquivel chair of that five-member board, to which he was reappointed in 2021.
During the roundtable, Esquivel said maintaining water affordability and access to safe water for Californians is challenged by pressures that include aging infrastructure and climate change.
“How to sustain our systems in the next 10, 20, 50 years is a complex issue, but we need to collectively expand access, while maintaining affordability and supply,” he said.
Water affordability and infrastructure projects
Esquivel said state loans to water projects statewide help water affordability and access to a safe, clean supply.
“Water has created the wealth of this state, and water supply investments made here are examples of what needs to be done,” said Esquivel, referring to successful supply diversification investments by the Water Authority and its 24 member agencies.
He also discussed the need for additional water infrastructure projects – including desalination, groundwater recharge, and potable reuse, and an increase in funding sources for those projects – and the importance of federal funding to help ensure access to safe and affordable water for all communities.
Water Authority commitment to affordability
Water Authority General Manager Sandra Kerl detailed some of the agency’s affordability efforts in recent years.
“The Water Authority is committed to maintaining an affordable water supply and finding solutions to inherently complex challenges related to water costs, rates and investments,” said Kerl. “Significant advances in affordability can only be achieved through the combined efforts of all four sectors that affect the cost of water for our region. Those sectors are the federal government, state government, wholesale water agencies and local water retailers.”
Kerl said the Water Authority’s commitment to affordability includes securing $25 million from the State of California to pay water bills for San Diego County residents impacted by COVID-19; securing $90 million over the past two years through successful litigation efforts and distributing that money directly to its 24 member agencies; avoiding hundreds of millions of dollars in future costs on water deliveries; and maintaining strong credit ratings that reduce the cost of infrastructure.
“Everything at the Water Authority is designed to deliver a safe and reliable water supply at an affordable cost, and the agency has taken numerous steps over the past three years to enhance affordability,” Kerl said. “Water affordability is imperative to equitable water access. This resource should be available to all regardless of race, ethnicity, or income level. Nobody should have to choose between safe, clean water and affordable water.”
Collaboration on solutions
Kerl said that the federal and state government, wholesale water agencies, and local water retailers can work together in finding solutions to the complex challenges related to water costs, rates and investments.
A recent poll by the Water Authority found that more than half of the residents of San Diego County would support a hypothetical program that provided water discounts or an assistance program for low-income ratepayers – even if they had to pay a few dollars more a month to fund it.
The Water Authority holds periodic legislative roundtables to promote collaboration with the water industry, civic and business leaders, on critical water issues in the San Diego region.
In his time at the California State Water Resources Control Board, Max Gomberg has witnessed the state grapple with two devastating droughts and the accelerating effects of climate change.
Now, after 10 years of recommending strategies for making California more water resilient, the board’s climate and conservation manager is calling it quits. The reason: He no longer believes Gov. Gavin Newsom and his administration are willing to pursue the sorts of transformational changes necessary in an age of growing aridification.
The lawns at the California Capitol are no longer being watered as water conservation was taken up a notch.
Emergency water conservation regulations were enacted by the California State Water Resources Control Board, and they went into effect on June 10. The regulations prohibit ornamental or non-functional grass at commercial, industrial and institutional properties from being watered.
California and six other Western states have less than 60 days to pull off a seemingly impossible feat: Cut a multi-way deal to dramatically reduce their consumption of water from the dangerously low Colorado River.
If they don’t, the federal government will do it for them.
Amid California’s worsening drought conditions, Gov. Gavin Newsom on Monday called on local water agencies to introduce new water-use restrictions and for state regulators to ban watering decorative grass at businesses and institutions, the governor’s office said in a statement.
In the executive order, the governor asks the California State Water Resources Control Board to consider making it illegal to water non-functional grass at commercial, industrial and institutional buildings. The restriction would not include residential lawns or grass used for recreation such as sports fields and parks, the governor’s office said.
Chula Vista, Calif. – Sweetwater Authority (Authority) recently received $633,540 from the COVID-19 relief fund. The money will cover residential and commercial water debt accrued between March 4, 2020 and June 15, 2021. Funds were distributed directly to the Authority and will be applied to delinquent accounts to cover outstanding balances. Unused funds will be returned to the state, as required
Just north of downtown — and a stone’s throw from the growling 5 Freeway — the concrete bed of the Los Angeles River gives way to soft earth and an explosion of riparian life: Cottonwood and sycamore trees push skyward, while fish dart beneath the swooping shadows of cackling waterfowl. The scents of mulefat scrub and sage hang in the air.
For many, it’s a vision of what the Los Angeles River looked like before it was transformed into a massive flood control channel. It also serves as a rallying point for those environmentalists who want to see the river returned to a more natural state.
With California mired in a 2-year-old drought and with available water supplies dwindling in much of the Golden State, Gov. Gavin Newsom in July asked all Californians to voluntarily reduce their water use by 15 percent. Five months later, disappointed at the indifferent response from millions of residents, Newsom’s administration is ready to try to force compliance.
Within weeks, the State Water Resources Control Board is expected to impose temporary bans on some outdoor uses of water — including watering lawns within 48 hours of local rainfall, hosing off driveways and filling decorative fountains. Violators would face fines of up to $500 a day.
The Kern River cascades from the Sierra Nevada in a steep-sided canyon, coursing through granite boulders, and flows to the northeast side of Bakersfield. There, beside cottonwoods and willows, the last of the river collects in a pool where dragonflies hover and reeds sway in the breeze.
Then the river dies, disappearing into the sand.
Decades ago, the Kern flowed all the way through Bakersfield. But so much water has been appropriated and diverted in canals to farmland that the river has vanished in the city, leaving miles of dry riverbed.
Now, a group of residents is campaigning to bring back a flowing river in Bakersfield.