The California Legislature passed a far-reaching legislative package on water in November 2009. The package, signed into law by Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, is aimed at improving the state’s water supply reliability and restoring the Sacramento-San Joaquin River Delta ecosystem.
The package includes four policy bills and an $11.14 billion bond measure now targeted for the November 2012 ballot. The policy bills advance the co-equal goals of a reliable water supply and a healthy Delta ecosystem and establish a new structure for managing the Delta. The bills also establish new requirements for water conservation, groundwater monitoring, and water rights enforcement to address illegal diversions of water.
The bond measure includes substantial funding for water supply reliability, surface and groundwater storage, Delta restoration, water recycling, conservation, watershed restoration, groundwater protection and cleanup, and drought relief.
A Water System in Crisis
The legislative package marks an important step toward addressing California’s ongoing water supply challenges. The Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta, the hub of the state’s water system, is in an ecological crisis that has led to historic restrictions on water deliveries and threatens California’s economy and key species such as salmon and Delta smelt.
In addition, aging levees that protect the Delta are a risk of a major failure that could cripple water deliveries for an extended period and flood communities and farmland.
Regulatory actions to protect species have reduced water deliveries from the state’s two largest water systems in recent years to more than 25 people in the San Francisco Bay Area, Central and Southern California.
The reductions, combined with three consecutive drought years, have compelled more than 60 local water agencies to impose some form of mandatory conservation. Growers in some regions have been forced to fallow significant acreage, contributing to unemployment and economic woes in several communities.
Climate change is reducing our mountain snow pack — a critical source of natural water storage—and may usher in longer droughts and more severe floods in the future.
Key Components of the Package
Delta Governance / Delta Plan
SB 7X 1 establishes a framework to achieve the co-equal goals of providing a more reliable water supply and restoring the Delta ecosystem. It creates a new governance structure that is consistent with ACWA policy principles.
New Delta Stewardship Council
- Seven members with a statewide view
- Adopts Delta Plan to implement co-equal goals
- Incorporates Bay-Delta Conservation Plan (BDCP)
Modified Delta Protection Commission
- 15 members, with substantial majority from the Delta
- Land-use authority
- Develops economic sustainability plan for Delta
Modified Delta Conservancy
- 11 members, including five Delta counties
- Primary agency to implement ecosystem restoration projects
In-Stream Flows Identification
- Dept. of Fish and Game and State Board identify flow criteria for Delta
- Planning function, not regulatory proceeding
SB 7X 6 includes new requirements for local agencies to monitor the elevation of groundwater basins to assist in managing the resource. Monitoring will begin on Jan. 1, 2012.
- DWR sets priority schedule for monitoring and review
- Local agencies determine how to best implement regionally
- Agencies that do not implement lose eligibility for grant funds
- DWR may implement monitoring for region if locals opt not to do so
Statewide Water Conservation
SB 7X 7 establishes a statewide water conservation program that requires a 20% reduction in urban per-capita water use by 2020. The bill requires development of agricultural water management plans by Dec. 31, 2012.
- Multiple pathways for compliance, including incentive-based option four to be developed by DWR by Dec. 31, 2010
- Interim target to be met by Dec. 1, 2015
- Task force to develop BMPs for commercial, industrial and institutional sector
- Standardized reporting system to be developed
- Agencies that do not meet goal lose eligibility for grant funds
Water Diversion / Water Rights Enforcement
SB 7X 8 provides for stronger accounting for water diversions and use by recasting and redefining exemptions for reporting requirements under current law. It also appropriates existing bond funding for ecosystem and water supply reliability projects and for additional State Board staff.
- Addresses illegal diversions
- Redefines diversions exempt from reporting requirements
- Appropriates $546 million from Propositions 1E and 84 for grants for various activities
- Appropriates $3.75 million to the State Board for staff positions in water rights enforcement
Safe Clean and Reliable Drinking Water Supply Act of 2012
The Safe, Clean and Reliable Drinking Water Supply Act is an $11.14 billion general obligation bond measure for the November 2012 ballot that would provide funding for California’s aging water infrastructure and for projects and programs to improve water supply and ecosystem health. If approved by voters, the bond would provide funding in seven categories: drought relief, water supply reliability, Delta sustainability, statewide water system operational improvement, conservation and watershed protection, groundwater protection and water quality, and water recycling and water conservation.