NEWS WORTH NOTING: Statewide water savings nearly reach 19% in November; US Court of Federal Claims will apply “physical” takings framework in Klamath Project litigation; Reclamation increasing releases into Lower American River for storage management

Statewide Water Savings Nearly Reach 19 Percent in November; Most of State Still Experiencing Drought Conditions

From the State Water Resources Control  Board:

The State Water Resources Control Board today announced that urban Californians’ monthly water conservation was 18.8 percent in November, a decrease from 19.6 percent in October and below the 20.2 percent savings in November 2015, when state-mandated conservation targets were in place. The State Water Board stressed the need for continued conservation given that Central and Southern California remain in drought conditions and the statewide snowpack is below average despite recent storms.

The cumulative statewide savings from June 2015 through November 2016 remains at 22.6 percent, compared with the same months in 2013.  Since June 2015, 2.35 million acre-feet of water has been saved — enough water to supply more than 11 million people, or more than one-quarter the state’s population, for a year.  

Although October through December rains in Northern California provided an encouraging start to the 2016-2017 water year (Oct. 1, 2016 – Sept. 30, 2017), much of the state has not recovered from the severe drought conditions that have persisted for the past four years. Moreover, measurements by the Department of Water Resources indicate that the statewide snowpack is about 70 percent of average for early January.

The State Water Board will continue to monitor conservation levels and water supply conditions, and will present a staff proposal to extend emergency conservation regulations for public discussion on Jan. 18.  The proposal may include a return to state-mandated conservation targets if dry conditions return or if conservation levels slip significantly.  The Board won’t be acting on the staff proposals on Jan. 18; staff will be bringing a proposal to the Board for consideration in February after taking into account comments from the Jan. 18 public workshop.

“Californians are continuing to conserve, which is the way it should be, given that we can’t know what the future will bring but we know that we can’t take water for granted anymore,” said State Water Board Chair Felicia Marcus. “It was especially good to see another month of impressive increases in conservation in northern California.

“With climate change already creating water supply challenges that will only get worse and State population projected to exceed 40 million by 2020, we all need to become more efficient with our limited water supplies year in and year out. Increased water efficiency coupled with new storage, recycling, stormwater capture and other measures is going to make us more resilient over the long term,” said Marcus.

Conservation Data

  • Statewide water savings for November 2016 was 18.8 percent (86,793 acre feet or 28.3 billion gallons), a decrease from October 2016’s 19.6 percent savings, and a decrease from November 2015’s 20.2 percent statewide savings (30.9 billion gallons).  November 2016 water savings are nine percent lower than November 2015 savings.
  • Cumulative statewide percent reduction for June 2015 – November 2016 (18months) is 22.6 percent, which equates to 2,347,125 acre-feet (764.8 billion gallons).
  • Statewide average residential gallons per capita per day (R-GPCD) for November 2016 was 76.6 gallons, below the 89.8 R-GPCD in October 2016 and slightly above 75.6 R-GPCD reported for November 2015. Link to Fact sheet here. All November data can be found on this page.

Conservation levels have remained significant for many communities that had certified that they did not need state-imposed mandates to keep conserving.

Under the board’s revised emergency water conservation regulations, urban water agencies have the ability to identify their own conservation standards based on a “stress test” of supply reliability. Water suppliers had to document that they have sufficient supplies to withstand three years of continuous drought or take additional measures that include state-imposed mandatory conservation standards. The regulation is in effect through February 2017.  Those stress test results are here.

In November 2016, 44 percent of suppliers achieved water savings above 20 percent. These 174 suppliers serve more than 13 million people and include the East Bay Municipal Utilities District, San Jose Water Company, Sacramento, Alameda County Water District, Coachella Valley Water District, Modesto, Los Angeles County Public Works Waterworks District 40 (Antelope Valley), California-American Water Company Sacramento District, and Contra Costa Water District, among others.

Additionally, many water suppliers showed November 2016 conservation levels that were even higher than November 2015 levels, including Lemoore, Patterson, Whittier, Goleta Water District, and Sonoma.

In looking at the data, percentage savings alone do not tell a complete story of conservation achievement. Suppliers with already low R-GPCD use are taking more significant efforts to save water with small percentage reductions. That is compared to big users of water for whom it easier to save water, particularly on outdoor ornamental landscapes.  Despite less than 10 percent water savings in November 2016, examples of communities with low R-GPCD and already significant conservation and efficiency achievements include San Diego, Irvine Ranch Water District, Sweetwater Authority, Park Water Company, California-American Water Company San Diego District, Compton, Golden State Water Company (Florence Graham), Paramount, Estero Municipal Improvement District, and Eureka.

However, not all suppliers are sustaining significant conservation.  State Water Board staff continues to look at why conservation levels have dropped in such communities, and is particularly concerned about suppliers with extremely high levels of per-capita water use. Suppliers with high R-GPCD levels and sharp reductions in conservation include: Santa Fe Irrigation District, Los Angeles County Public Works Waterworks District 29 (Malibu), Vaughn Water Company, and Valley Water Company.

Some communities continue to maintain low overall per capita residential water use, which may not be reflected in percentage change, but illustrates a long-term commitment to efficient water use.

Status of Permanent Water Use Efficiency Targets

The current conservation regulation, adopted in May 2016, is part of a wider effort to build on short-term, emergency water restrictions, establish permanent conservation measures and eliminate the worst water-wasting practices. These actions will help achieve a top priority of the state’s Water Action Plan – to improve long-term drought preparedness and “Make Conservation a California Way of Life.”

In May, Governor Edmund G. Brown Jr. issued an executive order calling for new permanent water use efficiency targets for each urban water supplier that reflect California’s diverse climate, landscape, and demographic conditions. The local “stress test” data and three-year resiliency plans collected by the State Water Board will serve as a bridge to these actions and inform the development of new water use efficiency targets.

On Nov. 30, the State Water Board along with four other state agencies released a draft framework for implementing the executive order. The new plan’s fundamental premise is that efficient water use helps all of California better prepare for longer and more severe droughts caused by climate change.

The framework develops long-term water conservation measures that will ensure all communities have sufficient water supplies. This will involve activities such as permanently prohibiting wasteful practices like hosing off sidewalks and driveways and ensuring farmers plan and prepare for severe drought. A final report with recommendations will be released in early 2017.

Background

California has been dealing with the effects of an unprecedented drought. To learn about all the actions the state has taken to manage our water system and cope with the impacts of the drought, visit Drought.CA.Gov. Every Californian should take steps to conserve water. Find out how at SaveOurWater.com. While saving water, it is important to properly water trees.  Find out how at www.saveourwater.com/trees. In addition to many effective local programs, state-funded turf removal and toilet replacement rebates are also available. Information and rebate applications can be found at: www.saveourwaterrebates.com/.

United States Court of Federal Claims Will Apply “Physical” Takings Framework in Klamath Project Litigation

From Somach Simmons & Dunn:

On December 21, 2016, Judge Marian Blank Horn of the United States Court of Federal Claims issued a favorable ruling for Klamath Project water users on pre-trial motions in the ongoing Klamath Project takings litigation.  Klamath Irrigation v. United States, No. 1-591L, 2016 U.S. Claims LEXIS 1933 (Fed. Cl. Dec. 21, 2016).  Judge Horn’s pre-trial ruling declares that she will utilize a “physical” takings analysis rather than a “regulatory” takings analysis to examine the irrigators’ claims for just compensation for taking of water rights based on the Endangered Species Act (ESA).  The ruling is significant because, in general, physical takings constitute per se takings of private property with a “categorical duty” on the government to compensate the owner, while a regulatory takings analysis typically involves complex balancing of private and government interests before liability can be found.  A copy of the ruling can be found here.

In the pair of consolidated cases, irrigators who rely on water made available through the Klamath Project (a federal reclamation project) allege that the United States’ actions to deprive them of water for irrigation in 2001, because of the United States’ asserted obligations under the ESA, constitutes a taking of their water rights for which the irrigators are entitled to compensation under the Fifth Amendment of the United States Constitution.  The cases have had a long and involved procedural history and are set for trial beginning late January 2017 in the Court of Federal Claims in Washington, D.C., more than 15 years after the first case was filed in 2001.

To continue reading at Somach Simmons & Dunn, click here: United States Court of Federal Claims Will Apply “Physical” Takings Framework in Klamath Project Litigation

Reclamation Increasing Releases into Lower American River for Storage Management

From the Bureau of Reclamation:

The Bureau of Reclamation is scheduled to incrementally increase releases below Nimbus Dam from 3,500 cubic feet per second to 15,000 cfs Jan. 5 to manage potential Sierra runoff. If inflows continue to increase or start to decrease, operational adjustments will be made as necessary and may occur on short notice.

Folsom Reservoir, located 26 miles northeast of Sacramento, provides water for people, fish and wildlife, hydropower, and environmental and salinity-control requirements in the Bay-Delta.

People recreating in or along the lower American River downstream of Folsom Dam to the confluence of the American and Sacramento rivers can expect river levels to increase and should take appropriate safety precautions.

Midnight reservoir elevation and flows from Folsom Dam may be found at Reclamation’s Central Valley Operations Office website at https://www.usbr.gov/mp/cvo/vungvari/wtr_rpt.pdf. Current American River conditions may be found at the Department of Water Resources’ California Data Exchange Center website at http://cdec.water.ca.gov/river/americanStages.html.

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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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