Friday Flashback: Making every drop count: The future of water storage in California

ACWA Storage Panel 1With $2.7 billion soon to be available from Prop 1, panel discusses how best to spend the available dollars and how to integrate new storage projects into the state’s overall water system

From the archives of Maven’s Notebook:

Originally published on February 23, 2015

Last November, voters approved Proposition 1, which allocated $2.7 billion to pay for public benefits of water storage projects that improve the operation of the state water system, are cost-effective, and provide a net improvement in ecosystem or water quality conditions.  A variety of storage projects qualify under the measure, not just surface storage, but also groundwater storage, groundwater contamination projects that provide a storage benefit, and conjunctive use and reservoir reoperation projects.

Per the bond language, the types of public benefits that can be funded through Proposition 1 are ecosystem improvements, water quality improvements, flood control, emergency response, and recreation benefits. No project can receive funding for public benefits that exceeds 50% of the project costs, and of the public benefits that are funded, half must be for ecosystem improvements.  In addition, the projects are to ‘provide measurable improvements in the Delta ecosystem or to tributaries of the Delta’.

The California Water Commission is currently developing the regulations for determining public benefits, with those regulations being completed and money ready to be disbursed potentially on December 15, 2015.

At December’s ACWA conference in San Diego, Lester Snow, Executive Director of the California Water Foundation; Joe Byrne, Chair of the California Water Commission; Jay Lund, Director of Center of Watershed Sciences and adjunct PPIC fellow; and Randy Fiorini, Chair of the Delta Stewardship Council discussed the future of water storage in California, and how those funds should be spent.

Moderator Paul Kelley began by recalling that the path to the recently voter-approved water bond actually began back in water legislation passed in 2009. “There was a bond measure that was included in that particular package; there was also an agreement to reconstitute the Water Commission,” he said. “Five years later we have a bond measure that has passed and $2.7 million available in it for water storage.” … ”

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