February 11, 2021 – Veteran water industry executive Tish Berge is joining the San Diego County Water Authority as assistant general manager, bringing experience from every aspect of water utility management to serve the region. Berge is currently general manager of the Sweetwater Authority, one of the Water Authority’s 24 member agencies. Berge starts her new role February 22 alongside Deputy General Manager Dan Denham and General Manager Sandra L. Kerl.
California’s increasingly volatile warming climate is making droughts more intense, and complicating water management. A just-launched commodity futures market for the state’s water provides a new tool for farmers, municipalities and other interested parties to ensure against water price shocks arising from drought-fueled shortages.
Taking a Wall Street approach to an essential natural resource has prompted both fear and hype. Will California experience a new Gold Rush in water? Will speculation boost the cost of water? Perhaps both the fear and the hype are unwarranted.
Describing federal investment in Western water management as “essential,” a coalition of more than 200 organizations has urged the incoming Biden administration and the new Congress to include water facilities in any future infrastructure or economic-recovery package. The coalition, including a number of national and regional organizations plus farm groups and water districts from 15 states, sent separate letters last week to President-elect Biden and the Democratic and Republican leaders of the House and Senate.
In a letter to President-elect Joe Biden last week, the American Water Works Association urged the incoming administration to prioritize COVID-19 relief for water utilities and investment for the overall water infrastructure sector.
The letter, authored by association president Melissa Elliott, cites AWWA research that revenue shortfalls at U.S. drinking water utilities may reduce economic activity by $32.7 billion and cost 75,000 to 90,000 private-sector jobs. Drinking water utilities are expected to see revenues from customer payments drop by nearly $14 billion, according to AWWA estimates. This is the result of the elimination of water shutoffs for non-payment, increased late payments due to high unemployment, reductions in non-residential water demands, and the addition of fewer new customers due to economic stagnation.
The incoming Biden administration will lead efforts to craft a new water-management regime for the seven-state Colorado River Basin, and people involved in the process expect any changes to reflect the impact of climate change in the basin.
The Bureau of Reclamation, under the Interior Department, will lead negotiations to replace 13-year-old interim guidelines used to operate the basin’s two major reservoirs, Lake Powell and Lake Mead. The Interior secretary also manages the lower basin, containing all the water below Hoover Dam.
Revisions should reflect ecological values, water rights of American Indian tribes, and the need for more conservation measures by users in the seven states—Arizona, California and Nevada in the lower basin and Colorado, New Mexico, Utah and Wyoming in the upper basin, those involved in the process said.
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.
For more than 30 years, Terry Fulp, director of the Bureau of Reclamation’s Lower Colorado Basin Region, has been in the thick of river management, applying his knowledge, expertise and calm demeanor to inform and broker key decisions that have helped stabilize the Southwest’s major water artery. Fulp is retiring after 31 years with the agency’s Boulder City, Nevada, office, which oversees the last 688 miles of the river’s path in the United States.
In an interview with Western Water, Fulp talked about his accomplishments in a leadership role and the challenges that await the many Colorado River water users as they begin the arduous task of negotiating a new operating agreement for the Colorado River to replace the current one that expires in 2026.
Two years ago, Cape Town, South Africa, a city of 4 million people, informed its shocked citizens that the city was just a few months away from running out of water due to drought. It was a wake-up call for all of us to become much better stewards of our own water. Luckily, for Cape Towners, innovative water conservation and efficiency measures, smarter data use, expanded water storage, and help from Mother Nature all combined to help them avoid a major water shutoff.
It is no secret that the COVID-19 pandemic has impacted the water industry. Revenue shortfalls from a decline in commercial and industrial water use and some residential customers struggling to pay bills are affecting utilities across the country. The service must go on, but in some cases the revenue lags. Conservative estimates from the National Association of Clean Water Agencies suggest the industry as a whole is expected to lose at least $12.5 billion due to the coronavirus when all is said and done.
The Delta Conveyance Project is a necessary investment to secure California’s water future. Let’s face it, our climate is changing rapidly and becoming more unpredictable – wildfires are larger and more frequent, the seas are rising, droughts are lasting longer and storms are fiercer. The need for this project has never been clearer.