News Worth Noting: Statewide Water Conservation Steady at 20% in July; New online tool for tracking progress of Delta actions; Bureau of Reclamation launches American River Basin Study; Argonaut Mine added to Superfund list

Statewide Water Conservation Steady at 20 Percent in July

From the State Water Resources Control Board:

SWRCB logo water boardsThe State Water Resources Control Board today announced that urban Californians’ water conservation remained steady at 20 percent in July, just one percentage point below June’s savings of 21 percent. The July results come even after the state relaxed conservation requirements in recognition of improved water supply conditions.

The cumulative average savings from June 2015 through July 2016 was 23.8 percent compared with the same months in 2013 – evidence that statewide focus on urban water conservation can change habits as long as water suppliers continue their ongoing education and dialogue with customers on the importance of conserving and using water as efficiently as possible.

The Board continues to work with state partners to craft a long term strategy to meet Governor Edmund G. Brown Jr.’s executive order calling for new water use efficiency targets, permanent prohibitions on water waste, and improved drought planning.  Information about the Executive Order can be found at: http://www.water.ca.gov/wateruseefficiency/conservation/

“The statewide July conservation results show that Californians continue to care about their communities and preserving precious water resources for the longer term,” said State Water Board Chair Felicia Marcus. “While Californians have maintained their conservation awareness and practices without top-down mandates, we are watching trends in  parts of California that suggest some areas may be easing up more than the improved conditions may warrant, while other areas are continuing to conserve for the long term.”

Virtually all agencies continued to save water in July, even those that no longer face a state-mandated reduction. Under the board’s revised regulations, water agencies that passed a “stress test” of supply reliability – by demonstrating that they have sufficient supplies to withstand three years of continuous drought — will not face a mandatory percentage reduction through January 2017 but are expected to keep conserving water. The July results varied across the state, with some agencies saving a bit less than they did under state-mandated targets, others saving a lot less, and yet others saving more than they had in 2015.

Some agencies that had saved 20 percent or more in 2015 dropped to less than 10 percent savings in 2016, such as Anaheim, Malibu (Los Angeles County Public Works Waterworks District 29), Vallejo and Yucaipa Valley Water District.  Additional suppliers with large decreases in conservation included the City of Bakersfield and San Juan Water District (suburban Sacramento area).

Other agencies maintained strong conservation despite passing their “stress test,” including Sacramento, Beverly Hills, Fresno, San Luis Obispo, Park Water Company (LA County), San Jose, San Francisco, and Contra Costa Water District. Some agencies even increased their level of conservation, such as Menlo Park, South San Francisco (California Water Company), Santa Fe Springs, Santa Barbara, Benicia, Hayward, Alhambra, Marina Coast Water District, Salinas and King City (California Water Service Company). A complete list of water supplier results for July is here.

Focus on Local and Regional Results

As a region, Southern California saw a bigger drop in overall conservation levels relative to 2015 than some other large regions – from 28.2 percent in July 2015 to 16.9 percent in July 2016. However, Southern California communities varied widely in their ongoing conservation, with some communities meeting or exceeding their 2015 conservation levels, and per capita water use remains low in many areas.

Still, the State Water Board will continue to monitor conservation and usage levels at the local and regional scale.  Even for water suppliers that passed their “stress test,” ongoing conservation is important to build drought resilience.

“Having invested time and effort into conservation, many Californians and their communities continue to hit it out of the park,” Chair Marcus said. “Others are still very much in the game, while a few communities seem to be leaving the ballpark entirely.  We’ll keep looking closely at the monthly results to determine if we need to step back in with demand-based or other higher conservation standards. But for now Californians have continued to conserve, albeit at a lesser level, having stepped up mightily last year in the face of extreme conditions.”

Water suppliers that passed their “stress test” do not face a state-mandated reduction target through January 2017. While some local water suppliers may have relaxed water use restrictions from those that were in place last summer, the statewide prohibition on specific wasteful practices, such as fountains without recirculating pumps, or irrigation of turf in street medians, remain in place.  And most agencies have kept up locally mandated restrictions and targets, which is appropriate and which the state strongly encourages.

“Last year, facing the fourth year of an historic drought and the worst snowpack in 500 years, we were at red alert,” said Marcus.  “This year, with some drought relief from one season of near normal rain and snow, we’re still at yellow alert; we are definitely not at all-clear.  We’re at yellow alert in the short run in case we go right back to dry years, and we are at yellow alert in the longer run because we know we’ll have more and more dry years with climate change, so we need to use water as the precious resource that it is.  It’s the most sensible and cost-effective thing Californians can do.”

July Conservation Data

  • Statewide water savings for July 2016 was 20 percent (145,311 acre feet or 47.3 billion gallons), a decrease from June 2016’s 21.5 percent savings, and down from July 2015’s 31.3 percent statewide savings (74.9 billion gallons).
  • Cumulative statewide percent reduction for June 2015 to July 2016 (14 months) is 23.8 percent, which equates to 1,899,336 acre-feet (618.9 billion gallons).
  • The cumulative water savings of 1.9 million acre feet is enough to supply more than 9.5 million people for a year.
  • Statewide average residential gallons per person per day (R-GPCD )for July 2016 was 113.5 gallons; up from 105.2 R-GPCD in June 2016 and above the 98.1 R-GPCD reported for July 2015, but well below the 142 R-GPCD in July 2013. All July data can be found on this page.

To continue reading this press release, click here.

New Online Tool Helps Track the Progress of Delta Actions and Improves Accountability & Transparency of Data

DSCLogoFrom the Delta Stewardship Council:

DeltaView, a new database, designed to capture and track various types of project data, is now available for Beta testing by the public. DeltaView provides information about projects such as goals and descriptions, cost and funding sources, key dates, responsible agency, and relevant performance measures.

This reporting tool is intended to improve in communication between agencies, stakeholders, and the public as it promotes transparency, tracks performance, and fosters collaboration.

DeltaView has been pre-tested with various state and federal agencies. Now as we enter into its Beta testing phase, the Council seeks the public’s advice on how the program can be enhanced to offer users a better learning experience.

Bureau of Reclamation Launches American River Basin Study in Northern California

ReclamationBureau of Reclamation Commissioner Estevan López announced that Reclamation is launching a new basin study in the American River Basin in Northern California. This comprehensive water study will help inform water management in the Central Valley Project.

“Understanding the growing imbalances between water supply and demand in the West is important for Reclamation and its partners,” Commissioner López said. “Working together and using the latest science and data we can develop options that will help us achieve a sustainable water supply.”

The American River Basin Study will include the development of detailed hydrologic analysis and models for the basin, which will include consideration of the impacts of climate change. It will also leverage existing stakeholder groups to identify and evaluate adaptation strategies specific to the American River Basin. To complete this study, Reclamation is partnering with the Placer County Water Agency, El Dorado County Water Agency, City of Sacramento, City of Roseville, City of Folsom and Regional Water Authority.

The basin encompasses 2,140 square miles in California from its headwaters in the Sierra Nevada near Lake Tahoe to the city of Sacramento where it meets the Sacramento River. It is highly populated and the population is expected to grow 47 percent to nearly 3 million people by 2060. The basin supports salmon and steelhead listed under the Endangered Species Act and provides water to support the Bay-Delta ecosystem. …

The Basin Study Program is part of WaterSMART. WaterSMART is the Department of the Interior’s sustainable water initiative that uses the best available science to improve water conservation and help water resource managers identify strategies to narrow the gap between supply and demand. For more information on the WaterSMART program, visit www.usbr.gov/WaterSMART.

To learn more about the Basin Study Program or the projects announced today, please visit www.usbr.gov/WaterSMART/bsp.

U.S. EPA Adds Former California Gold Mine to List of Nation’s Worst Toxic Sites

From the US EPA:

epa-logoThe U.S. Environmental Protection Agency is adding Argonaut Mine, located in Amador County, to the Superfund program’s National Priorities List. Historic gold mining operations deposited high levels of arsenic, lead, and mercury in soils. Today’s action makes the site eligible to receive federal funding for a long-term, permanent cleanup.

“Now that Argonaut Mine is on the Superfund list, EPA can begin full-scale efforts to clean up contaminated soil throughout the site,” said Alexis Strauss, EPA’s Acting Regional Administrator for the Pacific Southwest. “As we have been working with the community since 2013, this is an important step to address the mine’s toxic legacy.”

Argonaut Mine, located west of downtown Jackson, is a hard rock gold mine that operated from the 1850s to 1942. The now-defunct Argonaut Mining Company processed ore and disposed of tailings (waste left after the mining process) on the northwest side of Jackson. Most of the contaminated soil is in a 65-acre area to the west of Highway 49.

In 2015, EPA took action to clean up the highest levels of contamination at eleven residential properties and a vacant lot in Jackson, and installed a protective cover on steep soil slopes at the junior high school.

In April 2016, EPA proposed to add Argonaut Mine to the Superfund list, with the state’s support. Now that the mine has been formally added to the list, EPA will begin a comprehensive investigation at the site, and will seek public input prior to selecting a cleanup plan.

Some of the contaminated mine tailings are being held behind the 100-year old Eastwood Multiple Arch Dam. The California Department of Toxic Substances Control (DTSC), lead agency for retrofit of the dam, is evaluating stabilization options. EPA is working closely with DTSC and the City of Jackson to ensure public safety and protect public health as this project moves forward.

In addition to Argonaut Mine, EPA is adding nine and proposing to add eight other hazardous waste sites across the country to the Superfund list. These sites are contaminated by a variety of sources, including manufacturing, mining, battery recycling and dry cleaning.

The Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation and Liability Act (CERCLA), the law establishing the Superfund program, requires EPA to update the NPL at least annually and clean up hazardous waste sites to protect human health with the goal of returning them to productive use. The Superfund program has provided important benefits for people and the environment since Congress established the program in 1980. Those benefits are both direct and indirect, and include reduction of threats to human health and ecological systems in the vicinity of Superfund sites, improvement of the economic conditions and quality of life in communities affected by hazardous waste sites, prevention of future releases of hazardous substances, and advances in science and technology.

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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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