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California Legislature Passes Safe Drinking Water Fund

The state Assembly and Senate passed legislation to provide $130 million to provide safe drinking water for Californians lacking access to healthy water.

The state Senate approved the bill 38-1 Monday. The Assembly passed the bill 68-0 on July 5.

The legislation now heads to Gov. Gavin Newsom for his signature.

Safe Drinking Water Fund Passes California Legislature

California Legislature Passes Safe Drinking Water Fund

The state Assembly and Senate passed legislation to provide $130 million to provide safe drinking water for Californians lacking access to healthy water.

The state Senate approved the bill 38-1 Monday. The Assembly passed the bill 68-0 on July 5.

The legislation now heads to Gov. Gavin Newsom for his signature.

No water tax

Newsom and others in the Legislature had proposed a tax on residential water bills to pay for projects to provide safe drinking water for residents that don’t have access to it. Water industry groups, including the San Diego County Water Authority, were among the broad coalition of water, business and civic interests that opposed the tax.

“Thanks to the efforts of Senate President Pro Tem Toni Atkins and her staff, Californians will not face a drinking water tax,” said Glenn Farrel, government relations manager for the Water Authority. “Her leadership was vital to securing the funding needed to provide safe drinking water for the communities in California where unhealthy water is a problem.”

Historic funding solution

Funding to clean up contaminated water will instead come from California’s cap-and-trade program.

SB 200, which creates the Safe and Affordable Drinking Water Fund, is the second part of an historic funding solution for disadvantaged communities in the state that do not have access to safe drinking water.

The first part is in the state’s 2019-’20 budget, which Governor Newsom signed on June 27. The budget allocates $100 million from the Greenhouse Gas Reduction Fund (GGRF) and $30 million from the General Fund for the current fiscal year. SB 200 provides $130 million per year from the GGRF for safe drinking water for future years until 2030.

Safe drinking water

The funding is intended to assist communities in paying for the costs of obtaining access to safe and affordable drinking water, including treated contaminated water.  Many of those residents live in the San Joaquin Valley and rural areas of the state.

Smaller water districts will also be able to tap the funds to help with their operating costs, and possibly merge with other small districts.

The California State Water Resources Control Board has identified 329 water systems statewide that serve contaminated drinking water or cannot provide reliable water service due to unsound infrastructure or lack of resources. Most of the systems are in rural areas and serve fewer than 10,000 people.

A proposed tax on California’s drinking water in 2018 was also scraped by then Gov. Jerry Brown and legislative leaders.

California Assembly OKs Clean Drinking Water Fund

The California State Assembly has approved a bill that would spend up to $130 million a year to improve drinking water.

About a million people in California don’t have access to clean drinking water. Democratic Gov. Gavin Newsom proposed a tax on residential water bills to fix that. But lawmakers rejected it.

All-American Canal in Imperial County

Study to Assess Regional Pipeline for Delivering Colorado River Water

A new study will explore the viability of a regional pipeline to transfer water from the Colorado River to benefit multiple users in San Diego County and across the Southwest.

The San Diego County Water Authority’s Board of Directors approved funds for the two-year study at its June 27 Board meeting. The pipeline system is one of a handful of ideas being discussed by San Diego County water leaders to enhance partnerships and solutions that make sense locally and more broadly as part of Governor Newsom’s Water Portfolio Program to develop resiliency statewide.

Regional pipeline

The Water Authority’s upcoming study will look at a regional conveyance system that could move Quantification Settlement Agreement (QSA) transfer water directly between the Imperial Valley and San Diego. The Colorado River Aqueduct currently conveys the QSA water through Riverside County before it flows to San Diego.

“It may be an idea whose time has come,” said Erik Ortega, president of the Imperial Irrigation District Board of Directors, referring to a proposed regional conveyance system.

Creating a pipeline to transfer Colorado River water to the San Diego region has been studied periodically over decades.

But the new study is focused on how a regional pipeline could provide multiple benefits as part of a long-term water management strategy for California and the Southwest.

Water storage

The expanded review will consider a system that could create much-needed storage opportunities for the IID that could support agriculture while addressing critical issues like the Salton Sea and the need for more renewable energy development.

Graphic shows three proposed regional pipeline routes to deliver Colorado River Water

Map shows three potential routes for a proposed regional pipeline system that would move Quantification Settlement Agreement water directly from the Imperial Valley to San Diego. Two of the routes (the light blue and purple lines) follow a southern route. The third proposed route, (shown in both a yellow and darker blue line) follows a northern path. Graphic: Water Authority

Three pipeline routes

The pipeline under study would be designed at a capacity to convey the QSA water, which in 2021 will reach its full amount of 280,000 acre-feet of water annually. The current Water Transfer Agreement between IID and the Water Authority continues to 2047. But both agencies can agree to extend the transfer another 30 years to 2077.

As the study gets under way, there are three routes under consideration. Each of those routes would connect to the tail end of the All-American Canal where it meets the Westside Main Canal in the southwest corner of the Imperial Valley.

Two of the routes would follow a southern corridor between the Imperial Valley and San Diego, with one route over the mountains paralleling the U.S./Mexico border and the other tunneling underneath the mountains. Both routes would lead to the San Vicente Reservoir in San Diego.

The third and northernmost route would follow the Westside Main Canal toward the Salton Sea, then flow past Borrego Springs, and through the mountains. It would eventually connect to the Water Authority’s Twin Oaks Valley Water Treatment Plant in San Marcos.

Water Authority board chairman Jim Madaffer addresses the National Albondigas Political Society of San Diego about water's importance to the region's economy. Photo: Water Authority Water supply reliability

Madaffer: Collaboration Propels San Diego Water Supply Reliability

As the San Diego County Water Authority celebrates its 75th anniversary this month, Board Chair Jim Madaffer offered a fresh vision of the region’s water future and outlined new efforts to ensure water supply reliability for generations to come at the National Albondigas Political Society of San Diego meeting in Chula Vista.

Madaffer pointed to the 2003 Quantification Settlement Agreement with the Imperial Irrigation District as an example of the creative thinking and political leadership needed to secure reliable water supplies not only for San Diego County, but across the southwestern U.S by working cooperatively.

“We were able to work out a deal with the Imperial Irrigation District for 200,000 acre-feet of water,” said Madaffer, noting that IID has priority rights to Colorado River water supplies. “How smart to have this insurance policy for the region.”

Madaffer said one of the key efforts ahead is securing storage rights for the San Diego region’s water at Lake Mead, a strategy that could offer benefits to the San Diego region and more broadly across the Southwest by minimizing the chances that Lake Mead will slip in formal shortage status.

Water Authority board chairman Jim Madaffer (right) with John Dadian of the National Albondigas Political Society of San Diego. Photo: Water Authority water supply reliability

Water Authority Board Chair Jim Madaffer (right) with John Dadian of the National Albondigas Political Society of San Diego. Photo: Water Authority

Creative concepts explored to improve water supply reliability

Madaffer also outlined some of the concepts being explored by the Water Authority and its member agencies to improve water supply reliability with more diverse water supply sources, along with engineering and political creative thinking.

Madaffer said the Water Authority’s Board of Directors is considering a study about constructing a regional pipeline system to move the San Diego region’s independent water supplies from the Imperial Valley directly to San Diego. He said the options offer additional advantages to farmers in Imperial County and the Salton Sea.

“I’m a regionalist,” said Madaffer. “I’m interested in what we can do to make sure all of our member agencies are supported, and make sure water delivery works for the entire region.”

Graphic: Water Authority

San Diego is Brought to You by Water

Displaying a chart showing the change in water supply sourcing from 1990 to today, Madaffer asked, “Do we think we can insulate our region from the ravages of drought, so we aren’t depending on pipeline relining and several pipelines delivering imported water?”

He said the region’s approach includes a mix of investments, backed by efforts to use water wisely.

“We’re using less water today with 900,000 more people than we did back in 1990,” said Madaffer, calling it a conservation success story. “All our member agencies, plus each of you in this room, are responsible for helping make it happen.”

Madaffer also touted the region’s innovation culture.  “From Qualcomm to BIOCOM to all of the technology we produce, we are a hotbed of innovation in the region,” he said. “If you remember our drought back in the 1990s, there were states trying to grab our people, saying ‘Hey, work in our state instead, because California is out of water.’ We’ve changed that narrative 100 percent … San Diego is Brought to You by Water.”

“Electability” In The 2020 Primary, Polling On Housing, And Newsom’s Office Budget

At the same time Republicans in Washington are threatening to block President Donald Trump’s tariffs on Mexico, Lt. Gov. Eleni Kounalakis is counting the wounds inflicted on California by the White House’s “Molotov cocktail of policy.” Kounalakis, who is Gov. Gavin Newsom’s point person on trade, says the Trump administration’s tariffs on China have been deeply disruptive and costly to California’s $323 billion export market. The dollar volume of shipments to China declined 14% during the first three months of 2019 compared with last year at the ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach, the nation’s largest container port complex. And last year, California’s wine exports to China fell nearly 25%. Kounalakis says the Chinese simply bought more wine from Chile and Australia instead.

The San Diego County Water Authority has a long history of supporting a portfolio approach to address mounting environmental and water supply challenges in the Bay-Delta, the hub of the State Water Project. Photo: California DWR

Water Authority Invites Gov. Newsom to Tour Facilities, Praises Portfolio Approach to Water Security

The San Diego County Water Authority today praised Gov. Gavin Newsom for taking a proactive, far-sighted approach to water supply planning for California, and pledged to help the governor advance his portfolio strategy for water security in the face of a changing climate.

In a letter to Newsom, Water Authority Board Chair Jim Madaffer thanked the governor for the “wisdom and leadership” shown last week with the issuance of Executive Order N-10-19 and invited the governor to tour San Diego County’s cutting-edge water facilities.

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.” Newsom then directed state agencies to scrap Brown Administration plans for a $18 billion two-tunnel system for moving water through the Sacramento-San Joaquin Bay-Delta in favor of a one-tunnel system.

“We congratulate you on Executive Order N-10-19 and stand ready to support you and work with other stakeholders to ensure its success,” Madaffer wrote to Newsom. “If state and federal dollars are prioritized to support local, integrated planning solutions, we will realize the State’s 2009 promise to reduce demand on the Bay-Delta.”

Portfolio Planning For Water Security

The Water Authority has a long history of both portfolio planning for the region’s water security and supporting a portfolio approach to address mounting environmental and water supply challenges in the Bay-Delta, the hub of the State Water Project.

“Almost two decades ago, the Water Authority’s Board of Directors chose to take affirmative steps to change what had been an ‘end-of-the-pipeline’ mentality, when our agency relied greatly on water imported from the Bay-Delta,” Madaffer said. “In other words, we embraced then the intent of Executive Order N-10-19, and believe our experience is proof that it can be done.”

In 2013, the Water Authority joined several Southern and Northern California water districts, Natural Resources Defense Council, and other conservation groups in proposing a Portfolio Alternative for the Bay-Delta. That proposal included a single tunnel, increasing water storage south of the Bay-Delta, and significant investments in local and regional water supplies.

That approach didn’t gain enough support in the Brown administration, but it aligns closely with Gov. Newsom’s executive order.

Strategic partnerships

The portfolio approach also aligns with what history has shown to be a highly successful strategy in San Diego County, which relied almost entirely on water supplies controlled by external interests in 1991.

“After suffering the devastating impacts of drought and water shortages that year, our community got to work, determined to gain local control over the cost and reliability of our water,” Madaffer said. “Since then, the Water Authority and its member agencies have invested over $2 billion in local projects.”

Those investments include:

  • The nation’s largest agricultural water conservation and transfer agreement with the Imperial Irrigation District
  • The first new dam in the county in more than 50 years at Olivenhain Reservoir
  • The nation’s largest seawater desalination plant, producing up to 56,000 acre-feet of water annually
  • The raising of San Vicente Dam, more than doubling its capacity
  • Water-use efficiency programs that have helped reduce per capita potable water use by more than 40 percent in San Diego County

“Every dollar of investment the Water Authority has made represents a commensurate reduction of take on the Bay-Delta,” said Madaffer’s letter.

He noted that the Water Authority and its member agencies are still at work, with more local projects on the drawing board, including a Pure Water potable reuse program being developed by the City of San Diego and the East County Advanced Water Purification Project.

“We are also continuing to plan for the future, with an upcoming study that will explore water, conveyance, storage, treatment and energy opportunities with strategic partners in Imperial Valley, Mexico and across the Southwest,” Madaffer said. “This initiative is the next generation of the Water Authority’s evolution, and the ‘poster child’ for your Portfolio Alternative.”

The Water Authority is looking at new integrated solutions such as a storage account in Lake Mead that would help raise water levels in the drought-stressed reservoir and avoid formal shortage conditions that could hamper water deliveries across the Southwest. The Water Authority also is supporting a Salton Sea action plan that will protect both the environment and public health; binational opportunities with Mexico; and clean energy generation.