Panel Discussion: Allocating water during drought

Panel 1 sliderboxAt the PPIC's Managing Drought conference, State Water Board Chair Felicia Marcus, David Guy, Bill Croyle, and Jill Duerig reflect on the past year and look ahead, discussing drought, data, discharges and decisions

Earlier this year, the Public Policy Institute of California brought together water interests from all corners to discuss how the state responded to the exceptional drought conditions last year, and how those operations might be improved in the coming year.

No doubt the toughest job in the drought goes to the State Water Resources Control Board, who must decide how to divide up a scare resource among many competing interests.  In this panel discussion, Felicia Marcus, Chair of the State Water Resources Control Board; Bill Croyle, Drought Manager for the Department of Water Resources; David Guy, President of the Northern California Water Association; and Jill Duerig, General Manager for Alameda County Zone 7 Water Agency discuss their views on how the difficult allocation decisions played out last year, as well as how the decision making process might be improved in the coming year.

First, Brian Gray, Professor of Law at UC Hastings, opened the panel some remarks on how California’s water rights system and other water allocation processes coped with severe and widespread drought.

In 2014, state and federal water managers and regulators took a variety of significant actions to allocate scarce supplies and to protect environmental uses,” he began. “For example, early in the water year, the State Water Resources Control Board, the Department of Water Resources, the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation, and state and federal fish and wildlife agencies met in a series of meetings and agreed to allocate stored water in Central Valley Project and State Water Project reservoirs for essential instream flow and wetlands requirements, and this water would be released later in the water year as various demands for it arose.”

Brian GrayIn January of 2014, the board approved temporary urgency changes to Central Valley Project and State Water Project permits that relaxed Delta outflow and salinity standards for the two projects and this allowed the projects to conserve upstream storage for release later in the year to meet consumptive demands and to pump water under conditions when exports normally would not be authorized from the Delta,” he said.

For the first time since the 1976–1977 drought, the board also issued curtailment orders for the Sacramento-San Joaquin River and Delta watershed and the Scott, Russian, and Eel watersheds, and for several other river systems as well,” Mr. Gray said. “These orders directed junior appropriators in most cases, permittees and licensees, post 1914 appropriators to immediately to cease diverting water. The board also notified more senior appropriators and riparians that their diversions might be curtailed as well if severe drought conditions persisted. And the board is in the process and has listed most of those orders at this point.”

Although the water allocation and curtailment procedures were controversial, I think both generally worked well—especially given the hydrologic uncertainty, the limited time that the agencies and affected water users had to prepare, and significant economic and environmental interests that were at stake,” he said.

A lot of the people in this room deserve a tremendous amount of credit for taking really heroic efforts under extremely difficult circumstances. Yet, despite these salutary efforts, several important policy questions emerged,” he said.  “Many affected appropriators questioned the fairness of the board’s decision completely to curtail their diversions of water in favor of those with higher seniority on the system without considering differences in type of use, efficiency of use, return flow, and other relevant factors.

Critics—including some members of Congress—argued that the Central Valley Project and State Water Project over-allocated water to the environment, and therefore unnecessarily shorted some contractors. Conversely, environmental interests questioned the science and risk assessments that the interagency water allocation group used to balance environmental needs against urban and agricultural water demands,” Mr. Gray said.

Project operators, fisheries agencies, and the board struggled to manage acute and sometimes conflicting demands for releases of stored water previously allocated for environmental uses, as well as water needed for public health and safety,” he said.  “Finally, many observers noted that the board’s curtailment process was hampered by limited or out-of-date information on water rights, water use, and return flows, and also lacked adequate scientific backing.”

These programmatic issues and criticisms are not surprising. Regulators had to move quickly to accommodate and to protect a multiplicity of interests under unprecedented hydrologic conditions. But we can nonetheless learn from this experience in planning for the next drought, and that next drought may still be taking place.”

I would like to offer the following suggestions, drawing in part on recommendations that Ellen and several of our colleagues made to the board last October:”

Modernize information.The board and its agency partners should modernize the data and information systems used for curtailment and allocation decisions. This entails more than simply improving the technology used to measure and predict flows. It also requires annual water diversion and use reporting from all right holders, especially the largest water users. Moreover, it requires reporting on discharges, which comprise a major portion of the flow of some rivers.”

Consider public health and the environment more explicitly.The board should revise its curtailment procedures to define urgent public health and safety needs—especially for those users who cannot reasonably find or have alternative sources of supply —rather than waiting for those users to self-identify as occurred this year. The board and the interagency allocation group also should also adopt policies that identify priority environmental water uses, including flows to ensure the protection of vulnerable fish and water for state and federal wildlife refuges.”

Look beyond priority of rights.The board also should revise its curtailment procedures to allow it to consider factors other than strict priority of right when deciding how to allocate the available water during times of shortage, and in a stream system. These factors should include each diverter’s type of use, actual use of water in the three to five years preceding the curtailment, net depletion of water from the river therefore taking into account discharges and return flow, as well as access to other sources of supply. This change would enable the board to take into account a broader array of considerations (in addition to priority) that are relevant to the question of fair and efficacious allocation of water in times of severe shortage and a gain a more realistic assessment of the effects of each diversion on the actual flow of water in the river.”

All three of those are changes that can be made ahead of time and really must be put into place ahead of time, so they involve planning,” he said.

This final recommendation that will have to apply more situationally and more on the fly as I think the drought proceeds or as we go through our next drought,” he said.

Promote reasonable use. “Finally, the board should exercise its statutory and constitutional authority to prevent waste and promote the reasonable use of water. These actions should include stricter supervision of urban water agencies’ demand reduction and efficient use programs including pricing as well as greater scrutiny of water districts and individual users whose methods of diversion or use of water are either wasteful or impose inordinate burdens or harm to other water users in the system or to the environment. The board also might consider whether local restrictions on the transfer of water in times of drought constitute an unreasonable use under those circumstances.”

The floor was then turned over to the panel.  Moderator Ellen Hanak asks the panelists to respond to Brian’s remarks and give their thoughts about the future.

FELICIA MARCUS, Chair of the State Water Resources Control Board

On modernizing information, I do think the information issue is a big one, began Felicia Marcus. “We’d love to have massive amounts of information, but we need to actually have real information on which we can make decisions and everybody can see the nature of the decision to be made – that is really important,” she said.

At a gross scale, we have enough information to do our job this year,” she said. “Had we had more precise information, it not only would have made it easier to do the job more quickly and transparently but it also would have avoided where I see a tremendous waste of human energy going into talking past each other, because reality can be in the eyes of the beholder in a very faith-based way, when you don’t have data you can agree on, even on basic flow numbers.”

David Felicia 1Without data, in some instances people can say it’s whatever they say it is, she said. It’s only been since 2009 that we’ve had tranches of three year data, she said. “It’s enough in terms of self reported data to make these gross calls, but it’s actually not enough for us to be able to have the kinds of conversations in a transparent way,” she said. “I think we did remarkably well despite that, but modernizing the information just as Australia took a decade to do would be helpful, so any little bit I think would help.”

Clearly there are aspects of public safety that we could do a better job with this year, Ms. Marcus said. Some problems last year were avoided because the agencies involved found innovative solutions. Senior water right holders volunteered to help communities rather than have the State Water Board become involved, ‘an interesting choice’, she said.

The second place where we know we need to do a better job is with the Temporary Urgency Change Orders that our Executive Director Tom Howard did, she said. “We were all so afraid that we were going to lose salinity control in the Delta, because if we lost salinity control in the Delta, it would have been useless for human or agricultural consumption in the Delta or for export, which somehow some of the combatants seem to forget that that was a big deal,” she said.  “There was a hit the pause button on to try and conserve everything we had in storage, Shasta just being one of them. So we cut off exports with a public health and safety exception … and that ended up some viral sense that all of a sudden that meant that everybody would get all the water they wanted, which was not at all was intended. So words mean a lot.”

We do need to think about fish flows, she said. “We do have our flow objectives in a number of places, but we don’t have them everywhere,” she said. They set minimal flows for Mill, Deer, and Antelope and took that priority because that was where the fish agencies said the most threatened native fish, and that was an intelligent thing to do, she said.

There is an argument to be made that we shouldn’t be balancing fish flows because they are already so low compared to what the fish needs in the public trust context and any other context, and so [Executive Director] Tom [Howard] did, the fish agencies did and we affirmed later in the year what he had done,” Ms. Marcus said.  “I think people made some hard choices that were very thoughtful, and I think we just need to be as thoughtful as we can when dealing with the reality.”

Looking beyond priority, I’m taking the fifth on that one,” she said. “We have a priority system. I would settle for implementing it better, true to the spirit of the existing system, and I would leave it to the legislature or others to decide if they want to come up with a different scheme. I would settle for implementing this system in a more transparent and more reality based way.”

Ms. Marcus said that she thinks they do need to focus on reasonable use more. “In past droughts, we have used our reasonable use powers and we’ve used it in a lot of other circumstances whether it’s through emergency regulations for the frost regulations or other things … And I think that’s a powerful tool that we need to use thoughtfully, really thoughtfully, and in past droughts, we have.”

Reasonable use needs to be considered in the urban context, too, although they did have the power to do the emergency conservation regulations, she said. “We are in the process of considering what to do next, either to change those regulations – tune them up or do different types – or should we use our waste and reasonable use authority, either about specific uses or specific geographies as opposed to painting everyone with the same brush. So it’s going to be a year of being thoughtful of using of all the tools we have.”

DAVID GUY, President of the Northern California Water Association

Let me provide a couple of reactions to Professor Gray’s comments which I thought framed the issues quite well,” began David Guy. “I would agree in general with the thought that we ended up in a pretty good place, and I give Chair Marcus and the Department and the Bureau and the DFW, others a lot of credit for that. It didn’t start very well, but I think it did get to a better place.”

David Guy 1He then gave his observations. “At first, it felt like the agencies were stepping on each other’s roles, and once the agencies got in their lanes on the freeway, so to speak, and all started driving in the same direction, and when they respected each other’s role in the process, to me that’s when things started to actually gel,” he said. “I do think that the process ended up in a pretty good place.”

The Department of Water Resources and the Bureau of Reclamation’s Drought Operations Plan ended up pretty spot on, Mr. Guy said. “I’m actually kind of amazed,” he said. “When you went back and looked at what they had projected, overall it ended up to be really good operations plan and a good projection. Obviously it got us through the year and so I think a lot of credit goes to that.”

With respect to curtailments, there was a lot of pain and a lot of folks who didn’t like the idea of curtailments, he said. “We were actually asking the water board to curtail water rights sooner than they did,” he said. “It took about a month to do it when we thought they had the ability to, and it was understandable. Everybody was trying to get caught up with the hydrology.”

I think the junior water right holders that we work with knew that this was coming, they were ready for it, in fact they had lots of decisions to make from a business perspective, so they were pushing for that to happen sooner rather than later if in fact it was going to happen,” he said. “I think the curtailment process turned out pretty sound and I think we’ve all learned a lot that we can improve on.”

Mr. Guy said they are recommending to their folks to submit annual data to try and get as much real time information as possible. “The three year reporting cycle doesn’t make a lot of sense, so whether folks will do that, we’ll see, but at least we’re recommending to the folks in the Sacramento Valley that they do that. We’re working very closely with the water board staff on trying to get that common set of data to support the curtailment process, and I think we’re making progress. It was not pretty this year, but I do think it overall worked pretty well.”

The one area that I don’t think the water board did enough on was protecting storage releases,” said Mr. Guy. “I don’t think the water board took the right action with respect to that this year, and I think a lot more could have been done. Obviously that storage water is so vital to so many beneficial purposes and I think that we have to protect that water through the whole system and there needs to be more there.

On waste and unreasonable use, Mr. Guy said he had a different thought. “I think as we go forward, we have to start thinking about Article 10 Section 2 in a little different manner,” he said. “There’s the provision in the constitution that says that we have to use the water to the fullest extent possible, that’s the first clause in Article 10 Section 2, and to me, that’s what we have to do in a drought. We have to figure out how do we use that water, and Director Bonham talked about the way the water was managed so that the cold water could be used for salmon and then it could be used for refuges, could then be used for farms. That’s the kind of creativity that I think got us through this year, and to me, that what the constitution calls for.”

Let’s use every drop of water as well as we can, maximum through the system,” said Mr. Guy. “Yes, if there are people out there that are using water unreasonably then yes, that law should be utilized, but I don’t think that’s the first course of business because reality is most people are using water for beneficial purposes. We just want to encourage some of these creative solutions that we’ve been talking about.

I’m going to stop there …

JILL DUERIG, General Manager for the Alameda County Zone 7 Water Agency

Alameda County Zone 7 Water Agency is in a different place in the spectrum than most, began Jill Duerig. The agency gets over 80% of their water from the State Water Project, and due to two previous years of drought and major construction along the aqueduct that delivers the water to them, they had already been relying on their groundwater basin much more than they had in the past. “We have a certain amount of groundwater we can pump every year to manage our basin, and that’s not going to get us to the point where we can survive with a full use,” she said. “So we declared back in January a 20% cutback, and had to bump that up to 25% by April when the rains weren’t as great as we’d hoped.”

Jill Bill 1As we looked at our system, it wasn’t just about urgent public health and safety,” she said. “There were other factors, such as keeping the businesses in business, and distribution limitations where there were some parts of the system that we couldn’t get water to from our groundwater wells because we’re used to having state project water. We had some concerns about the original approach to that and wanted to make sure that if we ever got to a point where we were being asked to look at urgent public health and safety needs, that it would be taken within the constraints of the local agencies and that there might be opportunities to make a proposal for other factors, whether it’s a power generation facility or a something else in this area that has need for water and would have otherwise shut down businesses.”

While we have been improving our use of recycled water enormously, it also means that every time we increase recycled water, we decrease the ability to respond to an emergency drought, Ms. Duerig said. “We averaged across our system 29% savings this year because of our early imposition of mandatory cutbacks. … I think that has to be something else that the community is aware of, that as you increase that reuse, as you are using every single drop to the maximum possible, you have less leeway in what you can do. You’ve already pulled in the belt buckles and you may not be able to diet that extra 5 pounds away.”

We have a lot of facilities, because we manage a groundwater basin too, and we have flood control channels that when they are not being used for flooding, we use them for groundwater recharge, and the groundwater recharge allows for habitat enhancements and restoration, and also recreational opportunities,” she said. “We cut off recharging and we had several local parks that had to shut down because they just didn’t have enough water. We had to basically let a lot of our new plantings in a major restoration project dry up and we’ll have to replant, so that habitat has now been delayed four or five years. It was a baby oaks, and as you know, if you let them die, you’re several years behind.”

There were other beneficial uses that suffer when there’s not water available, so when you talk about reasonable use, you have to look at all the benefits that are coming from that water.”

BILL CROYLE, Drought Manager for the Department of Water Resources

This was an extreme drought – it was an emergency,” began Bill Croyle. “I think because of that, we actually set up an environment to break down some barriers that we would typically see.”

We need data, we need information, we need situational awareness, we need to measure how good or poor we’re doing in responding to the current situation, and so I think listening carefully to the number of the Australian delegates that have been coming to town on how we get to measure conservation at the house level or the community level,” he said. “We’re trying to make decisions based on data collection systems that are either outdated or have been reduced over time, and so that affects our decision support system and makes the risks higher and the error bars a little bit bigger. This disaster is pushing us to look at how we’re collecting and processing information especially across boundaries and across uses.”

Bill 3Part of the challenge is that with data, you need to make that transparent to the extent possible so that not only the state agencies or the regional agencies can use that information, but make that information to the local agencies,” he said. “With that kind of information, we can save a phone call, we can all move a little bit quicker to respond to a particular issue or a threat.”

The communication between the state and the White House provides some opportunities with regard to how we run the state and federal projects, he said, noting that they talk on a weekly basis, sometimes more. “That’s added a lot of value on how we get at and what we’re doing with our issues, where the comfort level is with the administration, and how we take advantage of things like the California Water Action Plan, Prop 1, especially as we move into this next year.

The Real Time Operations group that was formed in early January to bring key agencies together, both both state and federal resources, the state water board and the two projects, Mr. Croyle said. “They were meeting at minimum twice a week if not more to come up with the plans and procedures, assess the risks, forecast forward and really be able to make decisions as a group and present credible information, to the board so that the board can take action and we can get back to monitoring and managing those dials on the system.”

In my view, that process allowed us to transfer 350,000 acre-feet of water in a very difficult time with very little water to San Luis Reservoir to assist, at least on the health and safety uses south of Delta,” he said. “We still had west of Delta and north of Delta concerns to work with, but that kind of dialog, that kind of commitment on an hourly basis, weekly basis, monthly basis and for the last year plus now has allowed us to push through some of those envelopes so we can talk about reasonable use, conservation, data management, data collection, transparency, and things like that.”

Discussing discharges, data, and development

Moderator Ellen Hanak noted that the 2009 water legislation package included surface reporting requirements for pre-1914 and riparian rights every three years, a first time for these water rights holders to be reporting their water diversions and use. “It turned out to be, my sense is, hugely valuable in this drought, it was really lucky that we had that, so at the time when that was enacted, a lot of folks were saying this is too weak,” Ms. Hanak said. “It was a useful building block for thinking about this information system. … We’re suggesting maybe annual reporting for at least for large diverters would be good.”

We’re suggesting the idea of reporting on discharges, too,” Ms. Hanak said. She noted that cities and wastewater agencies report this, and recent regulations require agriculture to monitor discharges more. “My sense is that in most places, that’s not yet a requirement, and we’re suggesting maybe that should be also and our reasoning for this is that in a lot of situations, the return flow – what comes back in through discharges is an important part of what’s actually available in the stream, so I’d love to get quick reactions on that thought in particular … “

David Guy RoomData is obviously everybody’s friend,” replied David Guy. “It isn’t enough to have the data; you have to have people that understand it, and that’s the challenge. … There’s plenty of data. We’re all living in a world where we probably have more data than any of us can process, quite honestly, so I think that’s the first piece.”

With respect to discharges, in dry years, there are not a lot of return flows, Mr. Guy pointed out. “So I think that it’s a little overstated that that is an issue, because reality is when you have a zero percent supply, what’s the return flow? When you have a 50% supply, I guarantee you are tightening up the system so much that there is not going to be a return flow, so I don’t’ know that that’s a big solution, to be honest.”

With that said, it’s an important issue, and what you’re really talking about is doing a water balance, Mr. Guy said. “DWR through the Bulletin 160 process now does it on a pure regional scale,” he said. “I think it’s understanding those water balances that is the important thing. Yes, if there’s a discharge that is significant, that can be looked at and I would welcome that, but again I think during a dry year, let’s be real practical here. There are not a lot of folks that are discharging water.”

I’ll hasten to say that it matters which system you’re on,” said Ms. Hanak. “On the San Joaquin, it’s still a big part of it, and not everybody got zero.

It really varies and all that information would be helpful,” said Felicia Marcus. “Australia spent ten years getting their data down where everybody transmits electronically what they are using and what they are putting back in and everybody can see it, and that is what they built their water market on. … I think we need more data. There are all kinds of data that would be helpful to report. There’s something in between what the Australians have done or going all the way to adjudications of water rights, and where we are right now, that would give people a better picture of what’s really happening.”

I would just say that discharge is just a piece of the information we don’t have; there’s seepage, and depletions were not estimated as well as they might be,” continued Ms. Marcus. “We need to learn from what didn’t work that well this year and make it better, and one of the things we collectively guessed wrong on is whether we had reserved enough in storage because we didn’t assess the depletions. There’s more as well where we don’t have a full sense of how the system works and particularly as you are thinking about managing salinity, because if you lose it, the consequences are huge.”

Add FeliciaMore information would definitely be helpful but you don’t want to bury people in reporting and data, so I think there’s a really thoughtful space that’s very important to spend some time on collectively,” Ms. Marcus said. “We don’t have to go zero to the perfect system all this year, but we could make some real progress that would give more transparency and more comfort. In the absence of data you can count on, everybody thinks everybody else is pulling something over on them. … I’d like more light next year than heat.”

The floor was then opened up for audience questions.

I was intrigued with your remark, David, that some of the water users were suggesting that voluntarily say how much they are using earlier on than they would have to,” asked Jay Lund from the audience. “A lot of Western water rights where we have curtailments, the water users call their rights, so that the local watermasters in real time can do the balances to make sure that the water is being fully beneficially used. Do you think that’s likely something we’re going to move into, at least among the larger water users in the system?

I think in a way that happens,” replies Mr. Guy. “Particularly for folks who have contract supplies and again we talk a lot about water rights, but a good portion of this state is overlain by contracts, and when you have a contract, you essentially make the call to the Department or the Bureau so I think in a way, that’s already happening. Could it happen in a broader set of circumstances? I suspect that’s possible, but I think the thing is that the districts and the agencies I know, they want to understand that information. Obviously it’s in their interest, so I think there’s always this assumption that people are somehow trying to avoid that, but quite the contrary. They are spending millions and tens of millions every year, trying to understand that as well as anybody.”

An audience member identifying herself as a planning commissioner for a local city says she’d to have a conversation about housing. “How do we keep building thousands and thousands of houses that really don’t have any way to recycle their water, or not, just the fact that we keep adding more houses and we obviously have an environmental issue as well as many others …

There are a lot of ways to answer that question,” responded Felicia Marcus. “One of it is that we’re not organized to really manage down to that level, we really are very disconnected. We don’t have a planned economy. … The decisions take place at very different arenas. The connection between water; there have been bits of legislation that say new developments have to show they have a source of water, you have certain counties that say if you’re going to build something, you’ve got to retrofit something else, so the actual system is no one’s in a position other than the local entity to be able to make those decisions so at a state level, so we want to tread lightly in telling locals what to do. … There’s a long way to go, but figuring out the roles between the state and the locals is a pretty tough arena. It helps when we have money which is why the bond is helpful and our state revolving funds are helpful on certain things, but I do think you are raising a question we need to talk about. I would focus on being more efficient in using the water we use rather than just numbers of people because we are very inefficient as a society in how we use water. I think we have decades of water to be plumbed by being more efficient; recycling, stormwater capture, rainwater capture and graywater. We have a lot of space here.”

Being 2015, this is the year of the urban water management planning effort by most water utilities, so we’re hoping for an extension to 2016 but these reports usually take us 12 to 18 months to prepare and they are supposed to look forward 20 years to say how are we going to serve the existing customers plus the projected development during that 20 year period,” said Jill Duerig. “They form the basis for whether or not certain requirements are appropriate, whether the plans include any new development has to have recycled water or whether any new development has to actually maybe commit to providing rebates for other parts of town that are older to create the water for that area. I think you’re local water utility is probably just ramping up to do its urban water management plan; then in theory for the larger developments, there would be an evaluation of whether or not enough water is there and finally a will-serve letter, and those are all steps in the process to get to the individual houses. That being said, once somebody’s fully vested and has gotten all their checks, a drought doesn’t allow most agencies to take that right away from them.”

Ellen Hanak said that they had looked around the state at which urban agencies were more resilient to the drought than others, and a big piece of resiliency was having interconnections with neighboring agencies. “That’s a huge part of the strength of the southern California system,” she said. “There is this very large wholesaler and the networks of smaller wholesalers and it’s possible to get water from one place to another in a different way. In the Bay Area, that’s turned out to be very useful.”

Add panel 2Jill Duerig noted that the Bay Area has a lot of smaller and larger agencies, and they have entered into a principles of agreement of a Bay Area Regional Reliability Program that’s based largely on creating interties. “We’ll be going for grants as a lot of these are expensive, but once that system interties are available, if the Hetch Hetchy watershed gets more snow that year, they can maybe share with some of the others. If State Water Project water or our own groundwater is very healthy, we might be able to share with others who are shorter, so it allows that kind of flexibility and local regional reliability and exchanges to happen that might not otherwise be possible without the infrastructure in place.

My prediction is that that’s going to be increasingly important in places like the Sacramento Metro Area too,” Ms. Hanak said.

Ms. Hank then gave each panelists a chance to give their top priority for getting through the drought this year.

I think again we really have to manage what we have and so we have to redouble our efforts for conservation, and share that information,” said Bill Croyle. “I think some education and some more serious discussion on data, recycling, conservation measures at the individual home or business level, and be able to process that information as it relates back to how much water we have.”

Mr. Croyle also noted that some agencies emergency contingency plans were based on faulty assumptions. “I think part of that next year is to go out and really talk closely and carefully about their emergency contingency plans, are they ready to implement that, do we need to modify and address that now, do they need state assistance or mutual aid through adjacent agencies. … Managing what we have right now is going to be super critical.”

Jill Duerig opted for a three pronged approach. “First is financing. Three cheers for the bond but most of the bond money is going to have matching funds of some sort which are hard to create with Prop 218 limitations right now. So that’s one piece of it. Another is the environmental piece. I was really intrigued by Jane’s comment about different environmental guidelines for our native species to survive because chances are they are more drought tolerant so the flows that are appropriate in a wet year may not be needed as much in a dry year and maybe we can do more of that coequal goal balancing. Third and last, I think that we had a lot of opportunities this year to try out exchanges and transfers. I think there’s still room for improvement, some of the actual processing of exchanges and transfers is still rather cumbersome and requires multiple agency approvals, where data is requested and the agencies don’t’ necessarily have it available, what do we do. Does that mean they get denied the transfer? And we get into that public health and safety needs issue.”

Add room 1The value of storage during a dry period,” said David Guy. “Obviously we live in a state, 38 million people, growing to 50 million by 2030, whatever, the number is staggering. It’s a highly managed water system, and the value of water storage to me this year was just real obvious. Professor Lund talked a lot about urban California this year not being too affected by the drought overall, and if you look at the value of Diamond Valley, look at the value of Los Vaqueros, look at the value of Hetch Hetchy, pick your favorite reservoir, and yes the groundwater element is critical. … I think there’s so many opportunities to look at that and try and augment that, reoperate that, and to look at some new opportunities for regulating reservoirs throughout the state to help during the next dry period.”

I hope that we make progress on having more thoughtful reality based conversations in the right forums, water board just being one, and that we will have far more transparency and discussion and planning in advance,” said Felicia Marcus. “I think that’s important and great, and hopefully we will make better decisions on the things we didn’t do as well as we could, protecting storage and really understanding the system, and so let’s hope we do that.”

I also really hope that we keep up the momentum that we finally got after decades in California of having people being able to talk about the whole range of ways in which we can become more water secure, whether its efficiency, recycling, stormwater capture, you name it, using it better, working together,” continued Ms. Marcus. “The fact that the fish agencies and the projects were able to work together so closely is really historic. When people write about this in decades to come, I’m hoping people will say this was the year when we finally got over ourselves and figured out how to have a rational conversation about the coequal goals, but there are more pieces to it than that – economics, health and safety, ecosystem, getting ahead of the curve. We’re having a more intelligent conversation about water in more places this year, and I think the drought accelerated it. … I think we are at that historical inflection point and I just hope we keep it up and continue to make progress, pedal to the metal, across the spectrum on figuring out how to use this precious resource more intelligently.

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