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Not Sports Podcast: San Diego Water Authority Board Chair Jim Madaffer

Darren Smith: Joining us now in studio is San Diego County Water Authority Board Chair Jim Madaffer.

Smith: “I think some of us we just turn on the shower in the morning and we use the faucet in our home and we never give a second thought as to what it’s coming and where it’s coming from, yet you have all the answers to these questions, don’t you?”

Jim Madaffer: “People do just turn on the faucet, the garden hose and they expect water to come out but yet a lot of folks don’t realize the incredible journey those molecules took to get to that faucet and what it takes to make sure they’re being delivered safe potable quality water and that it’s always reliable and at the best price possible.”

(“Not Sports” podcast with Darren Smith and Jack Cronin is a nightly look at stories that affect San Diego and the greater Southern California region.)

Imported Water Helps the Valley Endure Another Year of Drought

Thanks in part to a wet December that brought heavy snow to the Sierras, 2020 is off to a good start with reservoir storage levels at or above historic averages throughout most of the state – good news for San Bernardino Valley residents. Even though water districts and cities throughout the San Bernardino Valley rely on local rainfall and mountain runoff for about 70 percent of their water supply, local supplies are not enough. The region relies on Sierra snowmelt from Northern California to meet the remaining 30 percent.

Thais Asked to Shower Less as Drought Worsens

BANGKOK (Reuters) – Thai Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-ocha on Tuesday urged people to turn off taps and shower less to cope with a drought afflicting northern and central Thailand.

Last week, Bangkok’s water authority said the capital’s tap water was becoming saline as seawater pushed up the depleted Chao Phraya river, a source of much of central Thailand’s water.

Portfolio Tour July 2019

California Agencies Release Draft Water Resilience Portfolio

Three California state agencies today released a draft water resilience portfolio intended to help the state manage more extreme droughts and floods, aging infrastructure, declining fish populations and other challenges.

The California Natural Resources Agency, California Environmental Protection Agency and Department of Food and Agriculture developed the draft to fulfill Governor Gavin Newsom’s April 29, 2019 executive order calling for a portfolio of actions to ensure the state’s long-term water resilience and ecosystem health.

“The portfolio approach to water supply reliability is a significant advance in how our most precious resource is managed statewide, in line with our long-term strategy in San Diego County,” said Sandra L. Kerl, general manager of the San Diego County Water Authority. “As we review the details of the new plan, we will continue collaborating with the state agencies and other partners to turn this vision into a reality that benefits our region.”

Water Portfolio Tour July 2019

State and Water Authority officials before aerial and ground tour of regional water infrastructure on July 18, 2019. Photo: Water Authority

State agency leaders tour water infrastructure in San Diego County

Several state officials visited San Diego County on July 18, 2019 to assess the region’s water projects as part of their role in developing a water portfolio strategy for the state.

Natural Resources Secretary Wade Crowfoot, Deputy Natural Resources Secretary Thomas Gibson, State Department of Food and Agriculture Secretary Karen Ross, and State Water Resources Board Chair E. Joaquin Esquivel got a first-hand look at investments to diversify the region’s water supply, including the San Vicente Reservoir, Olivenhain Reservoir, and the Claude “Bud” Lewis Carlsbad Desalination Plant.

“San Diego is a great example of the challenges and complexities of managing water supply, as we look to supercharge water resiliency in California,” said E. Joaquin Esquivel, Chair, Calif. State Water Resources Control Board, after the July tour of water infrastructure.

Newsom’s order directed his administration to “identify and assess a suite of complementary actions to ensure safe and resilient water supplies, flood protection and healthy waterways for the state’s communities, economy and environment.”

Draft Water Resilience Portfolio encourages ‘collaboration within and across regions’

“This draft portfolio has been shaped to provide tools to local and regional entities to continue building resilience and to encourage collaboration within and across regions,” said Natural Resources Secretary Wade Crowfoot in a news release from the three agencies. “At the same time, state government needs to invest in projects of statewide scale and importance and tackle challenges beyond the scope of any region. Taken together, the proposed actions aim to improve our capacity to prepare for disruptions, withstand and recover from shocks, and adapt from these experiences.”

The draft release comes after several months of public input, and listening sessions, including comments from the San Diego County Water Authority and its 24 member agencies.

Draft Water Resilience Portfolio outlines more than 100 integrated actionable recommendations in four broad areas:

  • Maintain and diversify water supplies

    State government will continue to help regions reduce reliance on any one water source and diversify supplies to enable flexibility amidst changing conditions. Diversification will look different in each region based on available water resources, but the combined effect will strengthen resilience and reduce pressure on river systems.

  • Protect and enhance natural ecosystems

    State leadership is essential to restore the environmental health of key river systems to sustain fish and wildlife. This requires effective standard-setting, continued investments, and more adaptive, holistic environmental management.

  • Build connections

    State actions and investment will improve physical infrastructure to store, move, and share water more flexibly and integrate water management through shared use of science, data, and technology.

  • Be prepared

    Each region must prepare for new threats, including more extreme droughts and floods and hotter temperatures. State investments and guidance will enable preparation, protective actions, and adaptive management to weather these stresses.

Major Reser

Federal, state, and local governments have built separate systems of dams, reservoirs, and conveyance facilities to move water to cities and farms and provide flood protection. This map, from the draft Water Resilience Portfolio, shows the largest such facilities. Graphic: State of California

To develop the portfolio, state agencies conducted an inventory and assessment of key aspects of California water, soliciting broad input from tribes, agencies, individuals, groups, and leaders across the state.

“From Northern California to the Central Valley and the South, Californians from cities, farms, and other sectors are working together to develop innovative solutions to the climate-related water challenges that the state is already experiencing and that are expected to worsen,” said California Environmental Protection Agency Secretary Jared Blumenfeld. “This draft portfolio is an important step toward building resilience to ensure the long-term health of our water supplies and ecosystems.”

Public comments on draft portfolio

The public will be able to submit written feedback on the draft portfolio through February 7. A final water resilience portfolio will be released soon after that.

“State agencies are only one set of water decision-makers in California,” California Secretary for Food and Agriculture Karen Ross said. “Continuing to improve our water systems relies on collaboration across all groups of water users and all stakeholders. Accordingly, feedback on this draft will be important to refining and finalizing our portfolio.”

SoCal Sees Turnaround in Water Supply as Reservoirs Reach Historic Levels After Years of Drought

Just five years ago, the boat launch at Diamond Valley Lake barely met the water’s edge. Today, the same area is under water thanks to recent rain and snow.

It’s a turnaround that has the Metropolitan Water District of Southern California cautiously optimistic.

Opinion: What Have Decades of Water Lawsuits in California Accomplished?

We are stunned by the suggestion that yet another water lawsuit will help anyone. Conflict has dominated California water policy at least as far back as the coining of the phrase “whiskey is for drinking, water is for fighting.”

And what have decades of endless lawsuits accomplished?

A Warning from Ancient Tree Rings: The Americas are Prone to Catastrophic, Simultaneous Droughts

For 10 years, central Chile has been gripped by unrelenting drought. With 30% less rainfall than normal, verdant landscapes have withered, reservoirs are low, and more than 100,000 farm animals have died. The dry spell has lasted so long that researchers are calling it a “megadrought,” rivaling dry stretches centuries ago. It’s not so different from the decadelong drought that California, some 8000 kilometers away, endured until last year.

Washington Snowpack Low, Similar to 2015 Drought Year

YAKIMA, Wash. (AP) — Washington’s snowpack is less than a year ago and officials say it’s similar to the start of 2015, the state’s last big drought.

The Capital Press reports the statewide snowpack is 47% of normal. It was 46% of normal at this time five years ago.

“It’s very reminiscent of 2015, but this year we are way behind on mountain precipitation,” said Scott Pattee, state water supply specialist for the Natural Resources Conservation Service in Mount Vernon, Washington. “It’s worrisome. It’s the third slowest start in snow accumulation statewide since the 1990s and we had one of the driest Novembers on record.”

Step Aside Fires, Drought and Crazy Weather. Sea Level Rise is Slowly Getting Get Its Day in California.

People love the Golden State because of the coastline. There are all sorts of songs about the vibe California embodies — think “California Gurls” by Katy Perry, “Californication” by the Red Hot Chili Peppers and “California Love” by 2Pac.

But the ocean’s response to climate change is threatening that very identity.

San Diego County Water Authority Special Agricultural Water Rate program

New Agricultural Water Rate Program Benefits San Diego County Growers

The San Diego County Water Authority Board of Directors Nov. 21 approved a new and permanent Special Agricultural Water Rate program structure that offers lower water rates to farmers in exchange for lower water supply reliability.

Unlike the current temporary program, the structure of the new water rate program will let new participants join as a way to strengthen the region’s multi-billion-dollar agriculture industry.

New ag water program rates will be determined in the spring of 2020 as part of the Water Authority’s annual rate-setting process. The program will take effect January 1, 2021, replacing the current program that sunsets at the end of 2020. Additional program details, such as the signup process and qualifying criteria, also will be developed early next year.

Special water rate program supports regional farm economy

Farmers and growers who participate in the new program will continue to receive a lower level of water service during water shortages or emergencies, allowing the Water Authority to reallocate those supplies to commercial and industrial customers, who pay for full reliability benefits.  In exchange, participating farmers are exempt from fixed water storage and supply reliability charges. Under the current temporary program in 2020, participants will pay $1,231 per acre-foot for treated water, while municipal and industrial users will pay $1,686 per acre-foot.

“Creating a permanent program will benefit all regional water users,” said Water Authority Board Chair Jim Madaffer. “It helps farmers sustain their operations – and thousands of jobs – while providing a benefit to residential and commercial water customers in the event of future water supply reductions.”

San Diego County leads nation in production of nursery crops and avocados

“Every farmer in the county supports the special rate,” said Hannah Gbeh, executive director of the San Diego County Farm Bureau. “The agriculture community stands ready to provide significant water cutbacks in times of need, such as drought or emergency repairs.”

San Diego County is unusual among major metropolitan areas in the United States because it includes one of the nation’s most valuable and productive farm sectors adjacent to one of the nation’s largest cities.The region sustains 3.3 million people and a $231 billion economy thanks to decades of regional investments in water supply reliability projects, including the nation’s largest seawater desalination plant and the biggest conservation-and-transfer agreement in U.S. history.

Input from growers and farmers for agricultural water rate program

The Water Authority has provided lower-cost water to growers in exchange for lower reliability since October 2008, when the Metropolitan Water District of Southern California phased out a similar program. Since that time, the temporary Water Authority program has continued with a series of extensions set to expire at the end of 2020.

The new program was developed by the Water Authority’s Fiscal Sustainability Task Force, which is assessing a variety of issues to ensure the agency’s long-term financial health. Regional farming leaders provided input to the task force on the parameters of the new program.