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2020 Urban Water Management Plan Underway

An update to the plan for meeting the region’s long-term water needs is under development by the San Diego County Water Authority, in collaboration with its 24 member agencies. Once completed, the Water Authority’s 2020 Urban Water Management Plan will serve as the long-term guide to ensure a reliable water supply that sustains the region’s 3.3 million residents and its $245 billion economy.

The Water Authority Board of Directors’ Water Planning and Environment Committee is holding a special online meeting at 1:30 p.m. on November 12 for an update on the developing plan.

2020 Urban Water Managment Plan

2020 Urban Water Management Plan Underway

An update to the plan for meeting the region’s long-term water needs is under development by the San Diego County Water Authority, in collaboration with its 24 member agencies. Once completed, the Water Authority’s 2020 Urban Water Management Plan will serve as the long-term guide to ensure a reliable water supply that sustains the region’s 3.3 million residents and its $245 billion economy.

The Water Authority Board of Directors’ Water Planning and Environment Committee is holding a special online meeting at 1:30 p.m. on November 12 for an update on the developing plan.

At the meeting, Water Authority staff will provide an overview of the plan and share preliminary water demand projections for 2025 to 2045. Click here for more information about the Board meeting and agenda which includes an extensive overview of the planning process and a link to the webcast.

Planning process is “critical” 

Urban water suppliers in California are required to adopt and submit Urban Water Management Plans every five years. The Water Authority’s 2020 plan will include information on multiple subjects, including a baseline demand forecast, water-use efficiency savings, imported and local water supplies, a supply reliability assessment, scenario planning, and a shortage contingency analysis.

The Water Authority started the planning process in January 2019 by coordinating with its 24 member agencies to create a long-range baseline water demand forecast.

“This planning process is a critical part of meeting the long-range water supply needs of the San Diego region for both normal and dry year weather conditions,” said Kelley Gage, director of water resources for the Water Authority. “As San Diego faces increasingly unpredictable climate patterns, new state planning requirements will prepare the Water Authority for rare scenarios to continue to be a reliable and dependable wholesale water supplier to the region.”

Urban Water Management Plan elements

Through careful planning and the implementation of a water portfolio approach, the agency has increased the region’s water supply reliability through diversification and innovation.

A draft of the 2020 plan is expected to be released to the Water Authority Board of Directors and the public in January 2021 for a 60-day public comment period. The Board is expected to consider adoption of the final plan in April 2021. The 2020 plans must be submitted to the state by July 1, 2021.

Basic elements of Urban Water Management Plans include:

  • Assessment of the reliability of water supply sources over a 20-year planning time frame
  • Description of demand management measures and a water shortage contingency plan
  • Discussion of the development of imported and local water supplies

New state planning requirements

The California Urban Water Management Planning Act is a part of the California Water Code and requires urban water suppliers in the state to adopt and submit an updated plan to the state Department of Water Resources every 5 years.

State legislation passed in 2018 established new requirements for urban water management plans, which now must include a water shortage contingency plan and drought risk assessment methodology that compares available water supplies with projected water demands. Under these requirements, water suppliers must now plan for a dry period that lasts for five consecutive years, an increase from the previous requirement of three years.

Urban water suppliers are defined as agencies that provide water for municipal purposes to more than 3,000 customers or supply more than 3,000 acre-feet of water annually. The Water Authority and the majority of its member agencies fit this definition.

San Diego County Water Authority Developing 2020 Urban Water Management Plan

SAN DIEGO, CA, JAN 27, 2020 – The San Diego County Water Authority’s Board of Directors authorized work on the 2020 Urban Water Management Plan last week. The Board approved a contract with the firm Woodard & Curran to provide support services for preparation of the plan, which documents the region’s approach to ensuring a safe and reliable water supply.

Water Authority Developing 2020 Urban Water Management Plan

January 23, 2020 – The San Diego County Water Authority’s Board of Directors on Thursday authorized work on the 2020 Urban Water Management Plan. The Board approved a contract with the firm Woodard & Curran to provide support services for preparation of the plan, which documents the region’s approach to ensuring a safe and reliable water supply.

For a video of how the Urban Water Management Plan works, go to: https://www.sdcwa.org/urban-water-management-plan-1

GOES satellite image of the atmospheric river phenomena from March 20, 2018.

California Funds Atmospheric Rivers Research

A better understanding and forecasting of atmospheric rivers could improve flood control and water management in California.

The 2019-20 California state budget includes $9.25 million to pay for research into how the state Department of Water Resources can more accurately track the intensity and landfall locations of atmospheric rivers. About half of the state’s annual rainfall and 90 percent of its flooding come from such events.

“Improved forecasting and monitoring of atmospheric river storms would benefit not only California, but the Southwest, in managing our water supply,” said Kelley Gage, director of water resources for the San Diego County Water Authority. “With better forecasting, water managers could also prepare and plan for flooding events caused by the atmospheric rivers.”

The science behind atmospheric rivers

The science behind atmospheric rivers. Graphic: NOAA

Rivers in the sky

Atmospheric rivers are relatively long, narrow regions in the atmosphere – like rivers in the sky – that transport most of the water vapor outside of the tropics, according to NOAA. When the atmospheric rivers make landfall, they release the water vapor in the form or rain or snow.

“The rivers can stretch from 250 to 370 miles wide and carry a water amount more than 7 times the volume of the Mississippi River,” said Alexi Schnell, water resources specialist with the Water Authority.

The research funds were allocated to the Department of Water Resources to “improve observations, forecasts and decisions in support of atmospheric river precipitation events” as part of the DWR’s Research, Mitigation, and Climate Forecasting Program.

Atmospheric Rivers

Atmospheric Rivers in Water Year 2019. Graphic: Center for Western Weather and Water Extremes

Volatile water resources

A new study led by Scripps Institution of Oceanography at UC San Diego suggests that a new regime of wet and dry extremes is emerging in California. The study shows that the projected increase of extreme precipitation is likely to be caused by streams of moisture in the sky known as atmospheric rivers.

The study was published July 9 in the journal Nature Scientific Reports.

“California already has the most volatile water resources in the country,” according to a news release from Scripps. “Scripps scientists discovered that the state’s precipitation, as it becomes less frequent but preferentially stronger, will vacillate even more wildly between extremes of drought and flooding as a consequence of climate change.”

The federal Bureau of Reclamation, the Southwest Climate Adaptation Science Center, NOAA, the U.S. Geological Survey, and NASA funded the study, “Precipitation regime change in Western North America: The role of Atmospheric Rivers.”

California weather extremes

“As Mediterranean climate regions around the world are becoming more subtropical, the dry season is expanding. California is no exception,” said Alexander Gershunov, a climate scientist at Scripps. “What is exceptional about California is that the heavy precipitation is projected to become more extreme. We knew this from our past work. Now we have identified the mechanism responsible for this bolstering of extremes, and that gives us a more nuanced understanding of what to expect from future hydroclimate and a clearer interpretation of ongoing changes.”

 

Atmospheric Rivers helped California's snowpack in Winter 2018-19.

For the year-to-date 2019, the precipitation total was 19.05 inches, 3.74 inches above average, and the wettest such period in the 125-year record. Graphic: NOAA

Atmospheric Rivers boost snowpack

During the 2018-19 winter, atmospheric river events significantly increased snowpack in the Sierra Nevada and the Rocky Mountains. Both areas are key sources of water supply for the Southwest, including California and San Diego County.

Precipitation in the contiguous U.S. was above average from January to June 2019, according to a NOAA climate report released this week. The report said the 19.05 inches during the six-month period was 3.74 inches above average and the wettest such period in the 125-year record.

The January-to-June 2019 precipitation map showed California’s statewide precipitation was “above average” and “much above average.”