ACWA, Local Water Leaders Call for More Effective Approach to Flow Objectives in Bay-Delta Watershed

SACRAMENTO, Calif. –Saying California is facing a defining moment in water policy, the Association of California Water Agencies (ACWA) and local water leaders are calling on the State Water Resources Control Board to embrace a more effective approach to flows and water quality objectives in the Bay-Delta watershed.

In response to the State Water Board’s staff proposal for the San Joaquin River and tributaries and widespread concern about its impacts, ACWA’s Board of Directors adopted a policy statement outlining a more collaborative, comprehensive path to achieving positive ecological objectives while maintaining water supply reliability. The statement urges the State Water Board to set aside its proposed “unimpaired flow” approach and heed Gov. Jerry Brown’s call for negotiated agreements, which have proven successful on many rivers and tributaries in the Bay-Delta watershed.

“California’s urban and agricultural water managers are united in their vision for a future that includes a healthy economy as well as healthy ecosystems and fish populations,” ACWA Executive Director Timothy Quinn said. “That vision is best achieved through comprehensive, collaborative approaches that include a broad suite of actions and non-flow solutions that contribute real benefits to ecosystem recovery.”

As part of its update to the Bay-Delta Water Quality Control Plan, the State Water Board issued a staff proposal last fall that would require water users to leave significantly more water in the San Joaquin River and its tributaries from Feb. 1 to June 30 each year in an effort to provide fish and wildlife benefits.

The deadline for public comment on the proposal is at 12 p.m. today, March 17. ACWA submitted its policy statement to the State Water Board along with a formal comment letter on the proposal.

The ACWA statement notes that the proposal could lead to widespread fallowing of agricultural land and would negatively affect water supply reliability for much of the state’s population. It also would undercut the state’s groundwater sustainability goals, cripple implementation of the Brown Administration’s California Water Action Plan, and affect access to surface water for some disadvantaged communities that do not have safe drinking water. These impacts are not in the public’s interest and are inconsistent with the Brown Administration’s water policy objectives.

“With this statement, ACWA’s agricultural and urban agencies are sending a clear message that unimpaired flow approach cannot lead us to the future we want in California,” said Quinn. “There is a better path. Negotiated agreements on many streams have succeeded because they include a more comprehensive set of tools and the support of local stakeholders, resulting in even better outcomes for ecosystems and water users. Forced regulations seldom yield those results.”

ACWA’s policy statement emphasizes that the state’s flow policy must reflect the best available science, take economic impacts into account and be consistent with the coequals goals of improving both water supply reliability and ecosystem health and the broader policy goals of the California Water Action Plan.

Quinn and local water managers representing Modesto Irrigation District, Reclamation District #108, City of Sacramento Department of Utilities, San Francisco Public Utilities Commission and Zone 7 Water Agency briefed media today on the issue and provided examples of collaborative projects and partnerships underway that contribute ecosystem benefits while maintaining water supply reliability. Contacts for the local agencies are provided below.

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ACWA is a statewide association of public agencies whose more than 430 members are responsible for about 90% of the water delivered in California. For more information, visit www.acwa.com. ACWA also manages Save Our Water—the state’s official water conservation outreach program – in partnership with the California Department of Water Resources. More information is at www.saveourwater.com.

 

Local Contacts:

Modesto Irrigation District: Melissa Williams, (209) 526-7390

Reclamation District #108:Lewis Bair, (530) 979-1536

City of Sacramento Department of Utilities:Rhea Salvador, (916) 808-5594

San Francisco Public Utilities Commission:Charles Sheehan, (415) 554-1548

Zone 7 Water Agency: Jill Duerig, (925) 454-5000