Brown’s California Water Action Plan: Much Progress Made in Building a Sustainable Water Future

  • by Timothy Quinn
  • Nov 17, 2017
  • Voices on Water

Sometimes it seems California water policy is caught in an endless “do loop,” repeating itself over and over and not making any progress. But progress is a matter of perspective. It is much like the story of the two hikers climbing out of the Grand Canyon. One looks up at the canyon rim above and laments about how far they have to go. The other looks back at the canyon floor far below and says “but look how far we have come.” California water policy is like that – we will always have a lot of work before us, but we should not lose sight of how much we have accomplished.

Governor Brown’s California Water Action Plan is a case in point. That plan identifies a comprehensive set of actions that is broadly supported in the water management community, even if there is a lot of “devil in the details” to deal with. On several fronts, we are making solid progress on that plan.

Conservation as a Way of Life.Conservation is the first element in the governor’s plan and there is no disputing the fact that our industry has been hugely successful in keeping water demands down. Statewide and local education continues to motivate Californians to reduce water use. As an industry, we have hung together to protect local discretion with more than a hundred agencies signing onto ACWA’s positions in both the administrative and legislative arenas. We started this year with nine conservation bills and wound up with two. Both are now two-year bills and we are well organized to obtain legislation that moves long-term conservation policy in the right direction.

Drought Management. After the challenges of 2015 and a misguided policy that discouraged local investment and was patently unfair, we came a long way during the drought with the temporary enactment of the “stress test.” Forward-thinking drought contingency planning on the local level coupled with local infrastructure development are enabling California communities to better withstand dry periods. Put a “W” in the column next to this one. Legislative discussions will continue in 2018 regarding future drought contingencies and water use efficiency.

The Delta. Governor Brown continues to try and move a Delta solution forward. Even as federal CVP contractors seem to say “no” (while agreeing that core problems must be resolved), the fact that local agencies representing 84 percent of SWP supplies have said “yes” in one way or another is encouraging. ACWA policy unambiguously supports moving forward with Delta solutions that are part of a comprehensive policy that works for all of California. We are closer to Delta solutions that meet these criteria than at any time in my 40-year career.

Storage. Put another “W” in the column next to storage. The California Water Commission is expected in 2018 to allocate $2.7 billion from Proposition 1 (an ACWA success story from 2014) to successful storage projects competing for these funds, subject to the projects fulfilling the requirements of Proposition 1 as they move toward implementation. Eleven projects have been deemed “eligible” by the CWC to move forward in the process, including CALFED surface storage projects (Sites, Temperance Flat, and Los Vaqueros expansion) and eight other surface and groundwater storage projects located throughout the state. California is poised to add millions of acre-feet of new storage capacity to the system in ways that have not happened for half a century.

Groundwater Management. No law passed in the past decade (or more) was more controversial than the Sustainable Groundwater Management Act. But the fact is that SGMA, with its locally driven focus on sustainable groundwater conditions, is essential for California’s future. June 30 was the deadline for the formation of local Groundwater Sustainability Agencies and, guess what, we are getting the job done.According to the State Water Board, “…more than 99 percent of the state’s high- and medium-priority groundwater basins have met a key deadline to form local GSAs.” That’s a remarkable success story.

Headwaters. At ACWA, we have long recognized the need to manage the system from “peaks to the Pacific” and Board policy has consistently supported investments in our upper watersheds. We know the horrors of living with mismanaged forests and the wildfires that result, and we are making progress in both Sacramento and Washington, D.C. on funding and policy that can dramatically increase the pace and scale of better forest management in California.

Yes, that canyon rim is still way up there. But take a moment to acknowledge the progress that the water management industry in California made in 2017. We’ll need to continue the trek once again in 2018 to make more progress, but the goals are attainable with the focus and commitment of our member agencies.


ACWA Executive Director Timothy Quinn may be reached at timq@acwa.com.

Suggested Resources

15 RESOURCES prev next
Priority Issues Bulletin

Sorry, but only ACWA members have permission to view this content. Member login is required.

Comments on Preliminary Draft of California Water Plan Update 2018

Submitted to the California Department of Water Resources on Jan. 16, 2018

ACWA Scholarships Toolkit

Sorry, but only ACWA members have permission to view this content. Member login is required.

Federal Regulatory Chart

Sorry, but only ACWA members have permission to view this content. Member login is required.

ACWA Lead Testing & Service Line Inventory Webinar

On Jan. 9, in cooperation with the State Water Resources Control Board, ACWA hosted an informational webinar for public and […]

Comment on Sustainable Management Criteria Draft Best Management Practices

Submitted to the California Department of Water Resources on Jan. 8, 2018.

Coalition Comments on U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s Draft Endangered Species Act Compensatory Mitigation Policy

Submitted to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service on Jan. 5, 2018.

Comments on Draft Regulation to Prohibit Wasteful Water Use Practices

Submitted to the State Water Resources Control Board on Dec. 21, 2017.

ACWA’s 2017 Accomplishments

Each year as guided by the Board of Directors’ Priority Goals, ACWA works cooperatively and collaboratively with its members to […]

ACWA 2017 Fall Conference Presentations

Presentations from ACWA’s 2017 Fall Conference & Exhibition held Nov. 28 – Dec. 1 in Anaheim are available below. Please […]

ACWA’s 2017 Legal Affairs Committee CLE Workshop Materials

The following presentations and materials for ACWA’s 2017 Legal Affairs Committee CLE Workshop on Nov. 28 from 9 a.m. to […]

Can We Really Predict the Weather? The Latest in Forecasting

Presentations from the Nov. 9 program, “Can We Really Predict the Weather? The Latest in Forecasting” are available below: Challenges […]

Coalition Statement on 21st Century Approach to Water Management for the Bay-Delta

Submitted to the State Water Resources Control Board on Nov. 13, 2017.

Comments on Proposition 1 Groundwater Grant Program Funding Guidelines

Submitted to the State Water Resources Control Board on Nov. 9, 2017.

ACWA 2017 Regulatory Summit Presentations

ACWA’s 2017 Regulatory Summit was held on Oct. 17, 2017. This one-day summit provided information about new requirements to “reduce […]

Suggested News

15 Articles prev next
Western Municipal Water District’s 2018 Board of Directors Announced

Board’s 2018 goals focus on local water reliability projects and community engagement Riverside, Calif. – Western Municipal Water District’s (Western) […]

January Priority Issues Bulletin Available to Members

The January 2018 Priority Issues Update is now available online to members. The update is bullet-style summary of the latest […]

ACWA News: Jan. 19, 2018

Read the Jan. 19 issue of ACWA News for more information about the Brown Administration’s 2018-’19 budget proposal and a potential budget […]

Overcoming 2018 Challenges Can Build on Past Success

As with any new year, 2018 arrives with an exciting mix of unique challenges for ACWA members. But the key […]

Member Spotlight – January 2018

A Look at the Past, Present and Future of Palmdale Water District This year marks the 100th anniversary of the […]

Faces of Water Q&A – January 2018

Telling the stories of the people who work to deliver California’s water… 1.) Describe your job. I am the Operations Superintendent […]

ACWA Looking to Fill Vacancies on Region Boards

ACWA is seeking interested candidates to fill several vacancies on its Region Boards for the 2018-’19 term. Members of the […]

West Basin Offers Free Rainwater/ Greywater Workshop Series For Residents

CARSON, Calif. – West Basin Municipal Water District (West Basin) will host its Rainwater/Greywater event series beginning in February through […]

ACWA Members Testify at Senate Hearing on Title Transfers

ACWA Members Jerry Brown, General Manager of Contra Costa Water District (CCWD) and Jason Phillips, Chief Executive Officer of the […]

Earn CLE Credit: Videos from ACWA’s 2017 CLE Workshop Now Available for Purchase

Held on Nov. 28, 2017, ACWA’s Legal Affairs Committee CLE Workshop provided continuing legal education for water professionals and covered a […]

ACWA Scholarship Program Revamped for 2018

Now Accepting Applications through March 1 Each year, ACWA awards a number of scholarships to qualified graduate and undergraduate students […]

Western’s Plant Database Makes Water-Wise Landscaping Simple

Customers can search for more than 700 plants suitable for the Inland Empire RIVERSIDE, Calif. – Western Municipal Water District’s […]

Karla Nemeth Appointed DWR Director as Grant Davis Returns to Sonoma County Water Agency

Gov. Brown today announced the appointment of Karla Nemeth as the new director for the California Department of Water Resources. […]

Governor Releases Proposed 2018-19 Budget with Funding for Key Water Projects

Gov. Jerry Brown today released a proposed $190.3 billion spending plan that includes funding for several key water-related issues. Below […]

Materials From ACWA’s Lead Testing & Service Line Inventory Webinar Now Available Online

On Jan. 9, in cooperation with the State Water Resources Control Board, ACWA hosted an informational webinar for public and […]