NEWS WORTH NOTING: Metropolitan Water District statement on State Water Board’s decision to extend drought regulations; BBID statement on AB 313 water rights management bill

Metropolitan Water District statement on decision to extend drought regulations

Jeffrey Kightlinger, general manager of the Metropolitan Water District of Southern California, issues the following statement on the State Water Resources Control Board’s decision to extend the state’s emergency drought regulations:

“Southern Californians have done a tremendous job conserving water throughout our state’s historic drought and we urge them to continue making conservation a way of life. But we are no longer in a drought emergency, which is why we asked the State Water Board to let the emergency drought regulations expire.

“Conditions have changed significantly since the drought emergency was declared. With supply conditions improving last year, we began rebuilding our regional reservoirs, thanks in part to a 60 percent allocation from the State Water Project – as much as the three previous years combined. We were also able to deliver water to local groundwater basins to help replenish their low levels. This year is looking even better. The State Water Project allocation is already at 60 percent and likely to grow. We have been steadily refilling Diamond Valley Lake, Metropolitan’s main storage reservoir, and it is anticipated to reach capacity later this year. And snowpack levels, the state’s biggest storage supply, are reaching record levels.

“But, while the emergency has ended, the need to conserve has not. Every drop of water saved is a drop we can put into storage to be better prepared for the next dry year. And we need it. All but two of the last 10 years have been dry, depleting our storage levels. Southern Californians learned a lot about water conservation during the latest drought. We cannot afford to forget those lessons.”

AB 313: Solutions Proposed to Fix State Water Management

New bill ensures fairness for state’s water rights holders

From Byron-Bethany Irrigation District:

New legislation introduced Monday by Assemblyman Adam C. Gray (D-Merced) would make sweeping, necessary changes to California’s water management. Assembly Bill 313 seeks to fix the state’s broken water rights system, removing critical conflicts of interest that improperly allow state agencies to act as prosecution, judge and jury.

“BBID is proud to stand with Assemblyman Gray in support of AB 313,” said BBID GM Rick Gilmore. “The solutions outlined in the bill address some of the most pressing issues in California water, which the District faced first-hand.”

For the better part of a year, BBID fought to protect its pre-1914 water rights, on behalf of the district’s farmers and senior water rights holders across the state. A $5-million complaint brought by the State Water Resources Control Board (SWRCB) alleged BBID diverted water when none was available. The case was dismissed by the SWRCB last June, citing lack of evidence. Following the case dismissal, BBID pledged to take an active leadership role in a collaborative effort to help solve the state’s water issues and bring clarity to California’s water rights.

AB 313 would revamp the state’s water rights administration and enforcement, as well as the State Water Project. It would transfer the existing authority of the SWRCB over water rights to the Department of Water Resources (DWR), which has expertise and is better structured to handle water rights matters.

“The current system allows the State Water Board to conduct water rights hearings in which Board staff act as prosecutors, presenting a case to Board members who act as the judge, in a court the Board runs themselves,” Gilmore said. “This unchecked power prevents water right holders across the state from being fairly treated.”

Under AB 313, enforcement proceedings would be conducted by a neutral third party, in the form of a newly-created Water Rights Division under the Office of Administrative Hearings (OAH). A new State Water Project Authority would assume DWR’s current authority and water rights for the State Water project, eliminating the potential conflict of DWR administering and enforcing water rights, while possessing water rights of its own.

Though the current model of California water governance has gone largely unchanged since 1969, experts warn improvements are necessary to meet the needs of the future. A 2010 report from the Little Hoover Commission, Managing for Change: Modernizing California’s Water Governance, urged legislators in no uncertain terms to restructure the system that “…leaves the state ill-positioned for the challenge of managing its water resources.”

“Tackling the complex water issues facing our state requires not only collaboration, but constructive leadership,” Gilmore said. “AB 313 takes a step in the right direction for California water, toward the fairness, efficiency and sustainability required to meet the needs of a growing population.”

Byron-Bethany Irrigation District (BBID) is a multi-county special district serving parts of Alameda, Contra Costa, and San Joaquin Counties across 47 square miles and 30,000 acres. The district serves 160 agricultural customers and approximately 12,000 residents of the Mountain House community.

 

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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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