News Worth Noting: UC researchers provide guide on groundwater law; Natural Resources Agency releases plan to guide the state’s climate change adaptation; LAO Report on options for funding water-related activities; Metropolitan revises pilot Colorado River land management, seasonal program

UC Researchers Provide Guide on Groundwater Law

“Designing Effective Groundwater Sustainability Agencies” is a how-to on managing an invisible, shared water resource during a drought

From the UC Water Security and Sustainability Initiative:

UC Water LogoUntil now, California has never attempted to manage or regulate groundwater use.

But the Sustainable Groundwater Management Act of 2014 (SGMA) is historic legislation gives local entities the potential to bring their groundwater basins into sustainable condition.

To help groundwater managers succeed at this new task, a team of researchers has provided a set of guidelines based on examples from law and natural resources.

“Designing Effective Groundwater Sustainability Agencies” is available at the Berkeley Law website, and describes nine connected criteria to support the two main goals of efficacy and fairness. The researchers contend that how a groundwater sustainability agency (GSA) is formed and conducted determines how secure and sustainable the basin’s resources will be.

The UC Water research initiative, directed by University of California Merced Professor Roger Bales, partially supported the report. “The formation of effective, fair groundwater agencies to implement California’s 2014 forward-looking groundwater act may be the most important thing we do this year to provide a secure and sustainable water future for generations to come,” Bales said.

To read more from UC Water, click here.

Natural Resources Agency Releases Plan to Guide the State’s Climate Change Adaptation

Necessary Actions Described for Transportation, Housing, Energy, and Other Sectors

CNRA_logoSACRAMENTO, Calif. – Following the Governor’s executive order last year establishing the most ambitious greenhouse gas reduction target in North America, the Natural Resources Agency today released a final plan for how California will prepare for the extreme effects of climate change, including increasingly extreme weather and sea level rise.

“From eroding sea cliffs to shrunken mountain snowpack, many effects of climate change in California are obvious,” said California Natural Resources Secretary John Laird.  “Other effects are not so obvious but potentially powerful. Warmer average temperatures will affect everything from whether butterflies survive to where wine grapes can grow.  This comprehensive report describes the threats facing California and the mitigation and adaptation measures we can take across state government, from shading the concrete hardscapes of our cities to retrofitting fish hatcheries to cope with warmer streams.”

Divided by ten sectors that include water, agriculture, and biodiversity, the report, Safeguarding California: Implementation Action Plans, takes the recommendations from the 2014 Safeguarding California: Reducing Climate Risk report and shows the path forward by concisely presenting

·        risks posed by climate change,

·        adaptation efforts underway, and

·        actions that will be taken to safeguard residents, property, communities and natural systems.

The report has been informed by public comments gathered last fall, including at workshops held around the state.

The implementation actions contained in the Safeguarding California report seek to fulfill Governor Edmund G. Brown Jr.’s directive to state agencies to make informed decisions and avoid high costs in the face of inevitable impacts from climate change.

In October 2015, the Natural Resources Agency released draft Implementation Action Plans.  After receiving 41 comment letters and holding public workshops throughout the state, the Natural Resources Agency and the authors from lead agencies in each sector worked to incorporate the perspectives and suggestions from stakeholders and members of the public.   The plans for each sector have been updated, and more detail was added concerning future actions and collaboration among sectors.

The sector-by-sector Implementation Action Plans enhance the state’s readiness for drought, wildfire, rising sea levels, and increasingly extreme weather.  The State is committed to regional adaptation approaches that foster local solutions, integrate sectors, build on actionable science, and involve vulnerable groups and the environmental justice community.

In June 2016, the Natural Resources Agency will receive reports from leading agencies in each sector on the priority actions identified in the Implementation Action Plans in accordance with Governor Brown’s Executive Order B-30-15.  Together, these plans illustrate the comprehensive actions being taken to reduce climate risk and keep Californians safe.

Legislation signed by Governor Brown last fall (AB 1482 by Assemblymember Richard S. Gordon) requires the Natural Resources Agency to release a draft climate adaptation strategy by January 1, 2017.  To meet that mandate, the Agency plans to build upon the work of the more than 25 state agencies, departments, boards, and commissions as well as the public feedback that helped prepare the Safeguarding California report released today.

Agencies that served as sector leads were assisted by the Climate Action Team Working Groups, the Strategic Growth Council, and the Governor’s Office of Planning and Research.  The final Safeguarding California: Implementation Action Plans report is available at www.resources.ca.gov/climate/safeguarding/ or by clicking here.

LAO Report on options for funding water-related activities

LAO logoYesterday, the Senate Committee on Natural Resources and Water held a hearing on funding water projects. For the hearing handout from the Legislative Analyst’s Office, go here:  Options for funding water-related activities.

Pioneering pilot Colorado River land management, seasonal program revised by Metropolitan Board of Directors

Two-year pilot program with Bard Water District will provide Metropolitan up to 4,570 acre-feet of Colorado River water per year

From the Metropolitan Water District:

MWD logoBeginning in April, farmers in the southeastern corner of California will voluntarily skip their spring and summer plantings and transfer saved Colorado River water to the urban Southland under a groundbreaking two-year pilot program revised today by Metropolitan Water District’s Board of Directors.

No more than 2,000 acres of water-intensive field crops in the Bard Water District will be idled from April to July in 2016 and 2017, providing up to 4,570 acre-feet of transferable water to Metropolitan each year, under the terms of the land management and seasonal fallowing program initially approved by MWD’s board in January.

“With a projected future imbalance between supplies and demands in the Colorado River Basin, it will take new partnerships and new solutions now and in the years ahead,” said Metropolitan board Chairman Randy Record.

“This pilot program exemplifies Metropolitan’s commitment to find new, workable ways to maintain agriculture and provide reliable water supplies to the Southland’s urban economy,” Record said.

Under the $1.8 million pilot program, Metropolitan will pay $400 for each acre that is not irrigated during a four-month period, which is estimated to free up nearly 2.3 acre-feet per acre for transfer to the urban agency. (An acre-foot of water is nearly 326,000 gallons, about the amount used by two typical Southland households in a year.)

The Bard district—a unit of the Yuma Project created by the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation—receives Colorado River supplies via the All American Canal to irrigate nearly 6,400 acres in the southeast corner of California, adjacent to Yuma, Ariz.

In the winter, Bard farmers typically grow higher value, lower water use crops, such as lettuce and broccoli. During the summer months, farmers typically plant lower value, more water-intensive crops such as grains and thirsty grasses.

Instead of growing less profitable summer crops, farmers would sell their water to Metropolitan, creating a potential new water market, while maintaining their rights to grow crops in future years, said Metropolitan General Manager Jeffrey Kightlinger.

“This program offers mutual benefits that advance a new way to maximize the value and use of water for farmers and cities alike,” Kightlinger said. “It shows the potential of providing Metropolitan with a highly flexible and reliable water supply at an affordable cost that significantly augments our portfolio of short- and long-term water supplies for the region.

“At the same time, payments to Bard farmers could help them better manage fluctuations in the crop market by offering a stable income and providing needed capital to help fund local water system improvements and offset future rate increases,” he added.

With the Colorado River and the Southwest in the 16th year of drought, the pilot program marks Metropolitan’s latest agricultural conservation and transfer program partnership in California. The district maintains a similar land management and fallowing program with the Palo Verde Irrigation District and a long-term water conservation partnership with the Imperial Irrigation District. In both Bard and Palo Verde, the water rights remain with the farming community.

While the Colorado River drought limited Metropolitan’s access to Colorado River supplies since 2002, the district also has adapted by conserving and storing water in Lake Mead and by reducing its reliance through water-use efficiencies and new local supplies.

Under the revisions approved today to allow participation by small farms, the minimum size of any single Bard parcel enrolled in the pilot program was lowered from 20 to 10 acres.

 

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About News Worth Noting:  News Worth Noting is a collection of press releases, media statements, and other materials produced by federal, state, and local government agencies, water agencies, and academic institutions, as well as non-profit and advocacy organizations.  News Worth Noting also includes relevant legislator statements and environmental policy and legal analyses that are publicly released by law firms.  If your agency or organization has an item you would like included here, please email it to Maven.

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