Updates from the Delta Regional Forum, part 2: The Delta Regional Monitoring Program, Water Diversion Reporting, IRWM and Flood Futures Report

On September 19, the Department of Water Resources held a Delta regional forum as part of the update to the California Water Plan.  Part of the forum was dedicated to updates on some of the relevant planning processes currently underway involving the Delta. This post will cover the updates given for the Delta Regional Monitoring Program, the State Water Board’s water diversion reporting, and DWR’s Integrated Regional Water Management Strategic Plan and the Flood Futures Report.

(Part 1 covering the updates regarding the Bay Delta Water Quality Control Plan, the Central Valley Flood Protection Plan, and the Delta Plan was posted yesterday and is available here.)

DELTA REGIONAL MONITORING PROGRAM

Meghan Sullivan is the lead staff person at the Central Valley Regional Water Quality Control Board in charge of the effort to develop a regional monitoring program for the Delta that is essentially focused on water quality.

Delta #11 Feb 2013It was the pelagic organism decline in the early 2000s and the subsequent inability to determine the role of contaminants or any other stressor that might have contributed to the decline that sparked the interest in more regional studies, Ms. Sullivan explained.  She also noted that the Delta Stewardship Council and the National Science Foundation reviews identified more coordination and studies to determine why these big ecological events are occurring.

The Central Valley Water Board’s strategic work plan in 2008 included the development of a coordinated monitoring and assessment effort in and around the Delta as one of the identified goals.  The work plan acknowledged that a lot of agencies and groups monitor the Delta, but not all of it is coordinated.  “As a result, we’re developing a program with the mission to inform decisions on how to protect and where necessary restore beneficial uses  of water in the Delta by producing objective and cost-effective scientific information critical to understanding regional water quality conditions and trends,” said Ms. Sullivan.  “Essentially for us on the water boards, it means reassessing the way that we do monitoring and changing it to make it more efficient and to make it actually more useful, not only to our own management decisions but those of other agencies.”  The project includes producing regular timely synthesis of data that would be made available publicly and be used to change basin plan amendments and TMDLs.

Delta RMP TimelineAll of these agencies all have different databases and sometimes you can’t really find the data you need and even if you can, sometimes you don’t know if it’s really comparable,” Ms. Sullivan explained.  “The coordination and working through to try and figure out how to change that and make it so we can compare the data is another reason we’re embarking on this effort.”

The effort began in 2007 and has had a lot of starts and stops along the way for a variety of reasons, she said.  “In the beginning everybody did agree that it was a great idea and it was a good process and that we kind of built it slowly in phases,” she said.  “It’s been continued participation by a lot of stakeholders and I’m very grateful that they’ve all been engaged in the process over the time that it’s taken to get where we are today.”

In 2011, the first Pulse of the Delta was available online; the topics were directed by the regional board, and included pyrethroid pesticides, ammonia and contaminants of emerging concern.  The second Pulse of the Delta came out last fall and was developed with input from stakeholders; it included articles about the IEP, wetlands and methylmercury, as well as a status and trends section and updates on nutrients and pyrethroids from the prior version.

Click here to download the 2012 Pulse of the Delta.
Click here to download the 2012 Pulse of the Delta.

The Pulse is really what we hope to use to disseminate information from the program once we are implementing a monitoring framework,” said Ms. Sullivan.  “In the future it would also be done in coordination with the estuaries portal through the California Water Quality Monitoring Council in a way that would provide more publicly available friendly, interactive, and dynamic ways to present some of this information.  That portal will launch at the end of October and I encourage everyone to play with that when they get a chance, but that’s what we’re moving forward with to get data out to people and help them use it and understand more what’s going on.”

A steering committee was formed a year ago, consisting of representatives from wastewater treatment plants, water agencies, stormwater interests, regulatory interests, agriculture, and resources.  Ms. Sullivan acknowledged the lack of an environmental organizations on the steering committee, but said that they aren’t precluded from participating.  “All of our meetings are open to the public and we are also looking to form technical committees and various workgroups along the way which we would welcome input,” said Ms. Sullivan.  “We are developing a strategy to reach out specifically not only to environmental organizations but also various environmental justice groups at key decision points along the way because we will be changing the way some of our currently regulated monitoring is occurring in the future.”

Design principlesThe steering committee has developed several guiding principles, a mission statement, goals and objectives for the program, committee roles and responsibilities as well as methods of operation to guide the program.  “We’ve also developed management questions based on four categories, and these categories also track with some of the information needs and some of the performance measure outcomes that are listed in the water quality chapter of the Delta Plan,” she said.

The process has been very methodical and has been working out well, said Ms. Sullivan.  Currently, the committee is trying to decide the initial priority of what to monitor.  There will be challenging tasks that will be ongoing over the next several months, ultimately leading to permit revisions.  “Many agencies have dedicated staff to work through this monitoring framework that should be scientifically sound to produce the information that not only the water boards need but can be used in concert with other monitoring programs such as fish monitoring,” she said.  “We are also participating with the Water Quality Monitoring Council to make it available.  People should know what’s happening and just not have the data go into the databases that produce these ugly spreadsheets that you don’t know what to do with.”

Issues with floodplains have been challenging: “We are forcing people to think differently about what they are doing and what we’re doing, and continually moving forward with it,” said Ms. Sullivan.  “If I make everybody unhappy, I’m probably doing the right thing.”

For more information:

  • Click here for the Central Valley Regional Water Quality Board’s page on the Delta Regional Monitoring Program.

WATER DIVERSION REPORTING

Bob Rinker the Manager of the Statements and Use and Online Reporting Programs for the State Water Resources Control Board.  He is filling in for Delta Watermaster Craig Wilson today.

The Statement of Diversion and Use program has been around since the 1960s, but in 2009 there were some major changes to the water code that removed the exemptions for tidal zones, added monthly measurement requirements and a requirement to use a measuring device, as well as civil liability penalties for non-compliance.  Those changes came into effect for the reporting year 2012, generating approximately six to seven thousand new statements statewide, said Mr. Rinker.

Basically anyone who doesn’t possess an appropriative water right, permit, license or registration such as a livestock stock pond registration, domestic or small irrigation registration must file a statement.  “The bulk of the statement holders are riparian diverters; we also have pre-1914 appropriative claims which were grandfathered in prior to the agency’s existence in 1914,” said Mr. Rinker.  “Water diverters who have pending water rights applications and who are currently diverting water, those need to be covered with a statement.  Adjudicated rights not reported by a water master, and just about any other diversion, legal or not legal, that isn’t covered by an appropriative water right.”

Delta irrigation intake #2 Mar 2009The use of measuring devices began being required in 2012.  The Board had developed a list of recommended measuring devices, but people were not limited to those devices alone.  “The water code made a slight exemption for those people who deemed themselves to be not-locally cost effective to put a measuring device in place,” said Mr. Rinker.  “However, they still have to some form of manually measuring their water diversion.”

The Board conducted several outreach sessions to help people understand the new requirements and provide them with information on how to file their statements online. For 2012, Mr. Rinker said that statewide, 93% of those required to file statements complied, and in the Delta, the number in compliance was 97%.

Information on filing can be found on the State Water Board website under the water rights program.  Individual water right records can be viewed if the individual’s name or water right number is known.

For more information:

  • Click here for more on the Statements of Diversion and Use Program at the State Water Resources Control Board.

DWR: INTEGRATED REGIONAL WATER MANAGEMENT / FLOOD FUTURES REPORT

Gary Lippner, the Regional Planning and Coordination Branch Chief for the Department of Water Resources, then gave an update on the Integrated Regional Water Management Program and the Flood Futures Report.

Integrated Regional Water Management

We’ve certainly come a long way over the past decade but there is much further we need to go to advance Integrated Regional Water Management (IRWM),” said Mr. Lippner.  “We really need a strategic plan to build on the current and past successes of IRWM; to further enable, empower and support regional water management groups; to have better alignment of state and federal programs; to have a shared vision for funding priorities and finance mechanisms; and to influence future water management policies and investments in California.”

IRWM Workshops
Upcoming IRWM Strategic Plan Workshops

DWR held workshops in April and May of this year; there was good participation from practitioners and stakeholders, and the information was pulled together and compiled into a vision and goals document in July of 2013.  “We are getting ready to have another series of workshops in October and November; these are objective and strategy-focused workshops,” said Mr. Lippner.  “We are going to review and discuss the vision and goals analysis that was compiled and do some brainstorming, editing and sorting of the objectives and strategies in the IRWM strategic plan with a focus on guiding legislature to improve the process, outcomes and alignment for IRWM.”

The effort to develop an IRWM strategic plan began in August of 2012 which describes where are we at with water governance and IRWM, where do we want to get, and how do we get there, said Mr. Lippner.  There will be a public draft and review of the strategic plan, with the final plan completed in 2014.

Flood Futures Report

While there have been several different flood studies in the Central Valley, there has never been a comprehensive risk evaluation of the entire state of California, and that’s what the Flood Future Report is, explained Mr. Lippner.  “It’s a statewide flood risk characterization with recommendations for policy and finance decisions,” he said.  “This is a joint publication between DWR and the Army Corps.  To produce this publication, we met with 142 local agencies in 58 counties of California, so it’s a very comprehensive effort involving the risk characterization for the state.”

Flood riskOne in five people in California live in a floodplain,” he said.  “That’s not just the Delta, it’s just not Sacramento, floodplains are prevalent throughout the state.”  He noted that Los Angeles, San Francisco, San Diego, and others are in the floodplains.   “It just jumped out that there’s just tremendous flood risk regardless of where you are at in California, and that’s just one thing educationally that could be shared with regards to this report and education on flood risk exposure.”

The report also has solutions and recommendations. “It’s just imperative to solve the flooding issues and flood risks with an integrated water management approach,” said. Mr. Lippner.  “The IRWM strategic approach to planning and implementation combines flood management, water supply and ecosystem actions that deliver multi benefit projects.  There’s a lot of hope that when you have a multi-benefit project, the project can have more funding sources.”

More benefits and more funding sources – that’s the value of integrated water management,” he said.  “You can have more beneficial projects that could be more sustainable with more funding sources to really improve public safety, enhance environmental stewardship and provide for statewide economic stability.  That’s what integrated water management is all about.

The report also highlighted that flood risk needs to be looked at on both the regional and system-wide scale, he said.  “There’s no silver bullet; it has to be done both at the regional and system-wide approach.”

Flood Futures Report
Click here to read the draft Flood Futures Report.

There were seven recommendations that came out of the flood futures report.  They can be categorized in terms of tools, plans and actions, he said.

The first recommendation is to conduct regional flood risk assessments to better understand statewide flood risk.  “There are a lot of flood risk assessments but many of them are oversimplified.  Many of the flood risk assessments haven’t taken into account climate change effects which we’re starting to get more and more data and have a better understanding on, so absolutely understanding flood risk and doing more assessments is just absolutely critical,” he said.

The second recommendation is to increase public and policymaker awareness of flood risk.  “There are various understandings of flood risks and the consequences with locals and regional and public policy makers out there,” he said.  “We need to start an education campaign and bring everyone up to speed of what the flood risk in California is and have a common understanding of it.”

Third, there needs to be increased support for flood emergency preparedness, response, and recovery program to reduce flood impacts, he said, noting that emergency response programs are often cost-effective programs to minimize or reduce flood risk, but in trying economic times, they are also the same programs that get cut very early.

Land use practices that reduce the consequences of flooding need to be encouraged, he said, noting that local agencies make the decisions at the local level, but the decisions need to be made in partnership with state and federal agencies when it comes to flood prone areas.

Flood management also needs to be done from a regional, system-wide and statewide perspectives to provide multiple benefits, and collaboration among public agencies needs to be increased.  “There are over 1300 flood agencies that have some flood governance in California that certainly could be streamlined to work together on better collaboration for more efficient policies,” he said.

The last recommendation is to establish sufficient and stable funding mechanisms to reduce flood risk.  “If we go out and educate across the state of California, we prioritize the projects, we explain the risk and we communicate the investment needs, we’re hoping that it can help generate some more funding for flood with the goal of reducing flood risk both for people and property in the state of California,”  he said.

The draft report came out in April and the public comment period has closed.  The final report is expected to come out in November of 2013.  There will be a Phase 2 which will look at the flood financing strategy and an interagency ‘vade mecum’ which is kind of a vehicle for interagency discussion using consistent messaging combining tools, he explained.  “That’s the alignment – Those 1300 agencies, how do we get them to talk a similar language, how we can get efficiencies in the processes for planning, funding, and so forth for flood risk reduction projects.”

For more information:

  • Click here for more on the Integrated Regional Water Management Program’s Strategic Plan.
  • Click here to read the Flood Futures Report.

 

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