California's Water: The Flood Fight of 2006

Local water agencies are joining forces and forming partnerships to solve regional and local water challenges. Through collaborative efforts known as integrated regional water management plans, local water agencies are working to diversify their water supplies, improve water quality and reliability, enhance environmental stewardship and increase flexibility to better cope with droughts, floods and other uncertain future conditions.

This segment of “California’s Water” explores these efforts and how they integrate programs such as infrastructure improvements, groundwater storage, water recycling and water use efficiency. Viewers will get a look at three examples of integrated planning and learn why regional efforts are the future of water management in California.

Background on the Issue

Regional water management efforts have long played a key role in meeting the state’s water needs. Today, they are assuming even greater importance as individual agencies and communities forge partnerships to fulfill local needs and solve regional issues.

Though the specifics vary according to local needs, integrated regional water management plans include everything from infrastructure improvements to groundwater storage to water recycling and desalination. They can also include strategies such as water transfers and exchanges, flood protection, watershed management and wetlands restoration.

By pursing these strategies and integrating efforts across jurisdictional lines, local agencies are maximizing their investments and making more efficient use of available resources. They are also promoting regional cooperation and strengthening relationships among local governments.

These regional efforts represent the future of water management planning in California, and complement actions and investments by state and federal agencies to make sure California has the water supply system it will need in the coming decades.

Highlighted in this segment are three such projects. This first is Diamond Valley Lake, an off-stream surface water storage reservoir near Hemet completed by Metropolitan Water District of Southern California in 1999. Diamond Valley Lake is a lifeline for Southern California in times of drought. It holds 800,000 acre-feet -- enough water to meet the area’s emergency and drought needs for six months. It is also the heart of MWD’s plan to provide a reliable supply of water to the 18 million people it serves in Southern California.

MWD is pioneer in the area of regional water management. Back in 1996, MWD adopted a visionary Integrated Resources Plan that changed the way Southern California meets it water needs, particularly during dry years, by setting goals for investments in water use efficiency, recycling, storage and other resource management efforts. In 2004, MWD updated the plan to incorporate more investments in desalination and the concept of a water supply planning buffer to cushion any future water supply uncertainties.

The second project highlighted is Napa Marsh, the site of a nationally significant wetlands restoration effort. The Napa River Salt Marsh Restoration Project is a cooperative local, state and federal program to restore 10,000 acres of salt marsh to provide habitat for numerous fish and wildlife species and provide a beneficial use for recycled water in the North San Francisco Bay Area.

The effort will also improve open space and recreational opportunities, and help resolve serious ecological problems stemming from deteriorating levees and declining water quality. Project partners include Sonoma County Water Agency, the State Coastal Conservancy, the California Department of the Fish and Game, and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers

Also featured is an intertie project under way by the San Francisco Public Utilities Commission (SFPUC) and East Bay Municipal Utility District (EBMUD). The two agencies, which serve a combined total of 3.7 million customers in the Bay Area, operate two water delivery systems that pass near each other near the Alameda County city of Hayward.

Seeing a need to diversify their water supply sources and ensure alternate supplies in case of emergency, the two agencies struck agreement on a water sharing accord and began construction of an intertie between the two systems in March 2005. The intertie, which involves construction of a pump station, piping and 1.5 miles of new 36-inch pipeline, will allow the two partnering agencies to share water supplies – up to 30 million gallons of water a day – during an emergency or doing periods of planned maintenance. The City of Hayward is also a partner in the project.