NEWS WORTH NOTING: Californians show ongoing commitment to water conservation; Legislators oppose petition to change water rights, divert more water from Delta; U.S. EPA to oversee $4M groundwater study in Northern Orange County basin

Californians Show Ongoing Commitment to Water Conservation

From the Association of California Water Agencies:

acwa_logo.gifAssociation of California Water Agencies (ACWA) Executive Director Timothy Quinn issued the following statement today on Californians’ ongoing water conservation efforts under the state’s modified emergency conservation regulation.

“Californians continue to show their commitment to conservation. As the latest data from the State Water Resources Control Board indicates, urban residents are achieving significant levels of water conservation, even in the absence of state mandates. Cumulative statewide water savings since June 2015 are now 23.3% over 2013 levels, an impressive accomplishment by any measure.

“It’s important to remember that efficiency and drought preparedness are the objectives of the ‘stress test’ approach adopted by the state. We should take pride in the fact that many urban water suppliers are drought-prepared and do not need to require their customers to continue extraordinary conservation measures such as putting a bucket in the shower or letting their lawns go completely brown. Even so, the vast majority are maintaining robust conservation programs and putting significant dollars and resources into rebates, water-wise house calls, and public outreach to help Californians continue to make permanent changes  in the way they use water both indoors and outdoors.

“A slight dip in monthly conservation numbers was predicted as local agencies adjusted their local conservation requirements to meet local conditions. The uptick in water use seen in August, however, does not reflect an abandonment of conservation. It reflects a change in the overall approach and the fact that local communities are emphasizing water supply reliability and efficiency as a way of life, which is different from emergency conservation.

“ACWA believes the stress test approach is the right policy. The goals of drought preparedness and efficiency are more important – and more meaningful in the long-run – than one-size-fits-all monthly targets set by the state.”

Legislators oppose petition to change water rights, divert more water from Delta

Say proposal would be ‘catastrophic’ for Delta ecosystem, agriculture and fishing

From the office of Senator Wolk:

WolkLate yesterday state legislators called upon the State Water Resources Control Board to reject a petition to change water rights that would reduce fresh water flows to the Delta as part of the controversial WaterFix proposal, a move the lawmakers say will cause catastrophic damage to the environment and economies of the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta and San Francisco Bay region.

A letter by Senator Lois Wolk (D-Davis) and 11 Delta and Bay Area legislators denounced the proposed water diversions, citing evidence that doing so will cause serious and potentially irreparable harm to hundreds of plant and wildlife species, and also significantly damage the agricultural, fishing, tourism and recreation industries that rely upon the Delta.

“Contrary to its name, the WaterFix fixes nothing. The project won’t provide any additional water supply or increase water deliveries, and will only exacerbate conditions in the Delta,” said Wolk, D-Davis, who represents four of the five counties in the Delta. “Further reducing fresh water flows to the Delta will cause serious and potentially irreparable harm to the Delta’s fragile ecosystem, as well as its communities and economy. That includes the Delta’s $5.2 billion agricultural economy, as well as the iconic Delta and Coastal fishing industries, which are worth billions annually.”

The petition to add three new points of diversion from the Sacramento River was submitted to the State Water Resources Control Board by Department of Water Resources and the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation, the principal backers of the California WaterFix Project.

Wolk, a long-time opponent of the Tunnels project, was the lead author of the letter to the Water Board. The letters other authors include Senators Mark Leno, Loni Hancock, Jerry Hill, Cathleen Galgiani, Steve Glazer, Dr. Richard Pan, and Bob Wieckowski, and Assembly Members Bill Dodd, Susan Eggman, Catharine Baker, Ken Cooley, and Phil Ting.

Wolk and the letter’s other authors urged the Water Board to consider the effects of diverting up to two-thirds of the Sacramento River  from the Delta, including increased salinity that would contribute to further declines in species including the critically endangered Delta Smelt, the endangered Chinook salmon, and the Greater Sandhill Crane.

Reduced fresh water in the Delta is already to blame for the rapid spread of invasive species such as the water hyacinth, as well as increases in toxic algal blooms—all of which require considerable state and local resources to address.

The letter also notes the widespread concern from scientific bodies including the federal Environmental Protection Agency and the Delta Independent Science Board that flawed science is being used to advocate for the WaterFix’s proposed benefits to the Delta environment and water quality.

“Current water diversions are already overtaxing the Delta ecosystem. Reducing stress on the Delta by reducing reliance on fresh water exports is a fundamental and necessary step to ensure the sustainable and resilient water supplies needed by the economies, communities and ecosystems in the Delta and throughout the state,” Wolk said. “It’s time for a Plan B that can succeed where the WaterFix has failed, a plan that help us achieve the coequal goals established by The Delta Reform Act, while protecting the Delta as a place.”

Click here to read the letter.

U.S. EPA to Oversee $4 Million Groundwater Study in Northern Orange County Water Basin

Results will be used to develop cleanup plan

From the Environmental Protection Agency:

epa-logoThe U.S. Environmental Protection Agency today announced it has reached an agreement with the Orange County Water District to conduct a remedial investigation and feasibility study to address a large area of groundwater contamination in Northern Orange County known as the “North Basin.” The work required by the agreement is expected to take up to two years to complete and is estimated to cost up to $4 million.

The investigation and study will include the installation and sampling of 14 groundwater monitoring wells and data collection to determine the extent of contamination in the North Basin and provide EPA with information needed to develop an initial cleanup plan. Contamination in the North Basin is believed to be the result of industrial solvent spills and leaks from manufacturing, metals processing businesses and dry cleaning facilities over the last several decades.

“The Orange County groundwater basin is a vital source of drinking water for the 2.4 million people it serves,” said Alexis Strauss, EPA’s Acting Regional Administrator for the Pacific Southwest. “Protecting this resource is critical for our long-term water sustainability.”

The North Basin is located in the northern portion of Orange County and includes parts of Fullerton, Anaheim, and Placentia. The Orange County groundwater basin is a source for drinking water for the region, providing the majority of the water used in 22 cities. The area of groundwater contamination is several miles long and over a mile wide. All drinking water publicly served meets federal and state drinking water standards.

Historical industrial activity has contaminated the soil and groundwater with chemicals, including tetrachloroethene (PCE), trichloroethene (TCE), 1,1-dichloroethene (1,1-DCE), and 1,4-dioxane. Federal standards for drinking water for both TCE and PCE are 5 parts per billion. Initial investigation of the groundwater in the North Basin has detected PCE concentrations up to 3,300 parts per billion and TCE concentrations up to 23,000 parts per billion, and four contaminated drinking water wells have been shut down.

Exposure to PCE can have health impacts including liver damage and increased risk of cancer. TCE has been linked to various health conditions, including impacts to the central nervous system, immune and endocrine systems, fetal heart development, kidney and liver cancer, and non-hodgkins lymphoma. The extent and nature of potential health effects depends on many factors, including the contaminant levels and the length of exposure to the pollution.

Under the agreement, the District will reimburse EPA for the cost of overseeing the work. The District is volunteering to complete this study under EPA oversight so that cleanup can begin as soon as possible. EPA is working to identify potentially responsible parties to carry out the cleanup plan after it is finalized.  In addition, EPA is working with the Santa Ana Regional Water Quality Control Board and the California Department of Toxic Substances Control to clean up soil and groundwater at a number of facilities believed to have contributed to the regional contamination.

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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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