NEWS WORTH NOTING: Coalition Calls on President, Congressional Delegation to Make Water Infrastructure Spending a Top Priority; State Water Board Adopts Mercury Limits for Water Bodies; CaDC Statewide Efficiency Explorer Methodology v 1.0

Coalition Calls on President, Congressional Delegation to Make Water Infrastructure Spending a Top Priority

From the Association of California Water Agencies:

A coalition of business, labor, agricultural and water interests in California is calling on President Donald Trump and the state’s congressional delegation to make investment in water infrastructure a top priority in 2017.

In recent letters to the president and the delegation, members of the Clean Water & Jobs for California Coalition underscored the critical role water infrastructure plays in supporting the state’s economy, public health and safety. That role is jeopardized by a widening gap between available funding and needs to address aging water and wastewater infrastructure.

“As we have seen this year in California, water infrastructure serves multiple purposes essential to public safety, our economy and our communities,” said Timothy Quinn, president of the coalition and executive director of the Association of California Water Agencies. “As an infrastructure package begins to come together in Congress, we want to be sure that all aspects of water infrastructure – from reservoir spillways to levees to water treatment facilities to 21st century water storage projects – are front and center in those discussions.”

Michael Quigley, coalition vice president and executive director of the California Alliance for Jobs, added that while the state’s aging infrastructure has served California well, there is a critical need to invest in maintaining and modernizing facilities to ensure safe and reliable water. “Every dollar invested in water infrastructure is a dollar invested in our communities, our jobs and our future,” Quigley said.

Richard Lyon, treasurer of the coalition and senior vice president of public policy for the California Building Industry Association, called sound water infrastructure the backbone of the state’s economic stability. “Without reliable water, every sector of our economy would suffer – from housing to agriculture to manufacturing to high-tech. Water infrastructure repair, replacement and construction must be viewed as a vital necessity that keeps our state and our nation running.”

The Clean Water & Jobs for California Coalition also sent a letter to Gov. Jerry Brown applauding him for his focus on investing in the state’s water infrastructure and encouraging him to continue to make it a top priority over the remaining months of his term.

“With a new administration in Washington, D.C., that has identified infrastructure investment as a top priority, there is a new opportunity to ensure that water infrastructure is part of the conversation and actions that move forward,” the letter states.

The coalition’s letters are available here.

State Water Board Adopts Mercury Limits for Water Bodies

From the State Water Resources Control Board:

Yesterday, the State Water Resources Control Board adopted rules to protect people and wildlife consuming fish from freshwater streams, lakes and rivers in California that contain mercury – a potent neurotoxin.

“Fish like salmon, bass, sturgeon and other popular fish like trout are sought after as a key food source by California Native American tribes, and other groups that depend on fish for sustenance,” said State Water Board Chair Felicia Marcus. “Our goal in updating the rules is to more clearly identify who depends on such fish in their diet and where, and then focus our attention on what can be done to limit those exposures.  Unfortunately, mercury can be found in many fresh water bodies in California, and are largely a legacy of the Gold Rush era, and difficult to resolve. Longer lived fish, like bass and sturgeon, tend to accumulate the most mercury.”

The rules establish new “beneficial use” definitions to protect California Native American cultural and subsistence fishing uses and non-tribal subsistence fishing uses.  Based on these uses, the rules set protective levels of methylmercury in fish tissue and an implementation plan for achieving those levels.

The primary goal of the proposed mercury amendment is to restore and improve the chemical, physical, and biological integrity of California’s water bodies by reducing levels of mercury in order to support the beneficial uses of fish consumption by humans and wildlife and to define beneficial uses to protect California Native American tribal uses.

Although mercury occurs naturally in the environment, mercury concentrations exceed background levels due to human activities.  Gold and mercury mines; atmospheric deposition; industrial and municipal wastewater discharges, and urban storm water runoff are all sources of mercury that can enter surface water bodies and accumulate in fish tissue to levels that can be toxic to humans and wildlife.

The Board’s action sets what are called “water quality objectives” which are required to establish safe consumption levels for fish that are known to have accumulated mercury. The objectives are based on consumption rates for three populations that are at a higher risk of exposure to mercury because they depend on these fish as a regular part of their diet: recreational sportfishers; California Native American Tribes that subsist on locally caught fish, and other, non-tribal subsistence fishers.

The rules also establish two water quality objectives designed to protect wildlife from the harmful effects of mercury. One limit is based on consumption rates of wildlife that prey on fish species with elevated mercury and depend on them for a significant part of their diet, while the other limit is based on consumption rates of threatened or endangered species, such as the California least tern.

The rules also include a program of implementation outlining methods for determining limits for waste water dischargers, pollution prevention activities for urban storm water, and focuses on controlling sediment from non-point sources particularly in areas known to be contaminated by mercury to achieve the water quality objectives.

New statewide mercury water quality objectives for human health were needed to update the level of protection for recreational consumers of fish. State Water Board staff conducted numerous outreach activities throughout the state, including native American tribes, environmental justice groups, environmental organizations, water purveyors and the public to solicit input and public comment on this proposal since 2013.

Fish consumption studies indicate higher consumption rates for some groups than were used in U.S. EPA’s 2001 recommended mercury criteria. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service found that U.S. EPA’s 2001 mercury criteria, if applied, would no longer be protective of certain threatened or endangered species present in California.

As a result, the Board’s May 2 action establishes levels of mercury in fish that are protective of public health and fish eating wildlife.

Resources

CaDC Statewide Efficiency Explorer Methodology v 1.0

From the California Data Collaborative:

CaDC staff is proud to announce the completion of its first rapid assessment of the prospective residential component of  statewide efficiency targets described in the implementation framework for Governor Brown’s Executive Order B-37-16.  This integrates publicly available evapotranspiration, land use, service area boundary, aerial imagery, population and water production data to estimate residential water efficiency targets for 404 out of CA’s 409 major urban water retailers reporting in the latest supplier report.  The assessment offers water suppliers a first look at water use compared to a residential efficiency target and illustrates the need for enhanced data sources and additional information.

Supporting the CA water community in planning for the future

This assessment provides a marked improvement over the previous CaDC parcel based methodology, which was the previously best available statewide approximation publicly available online.  Those calculations are shown via an interactive tool whereby water uses can input and analyze various policy scenarios.  This tool was developed for planning and education purposes as a public service to support the water community in navigating the rapidly evolving statewide policy discussions.

As described in the original grant agreement with the Water Foundation, “This interactive planning tool empowers the California water community to analyze the impact of those prospective efficiency standards under user selected scenarios with varying indoor or outdoor efficiency standards.”  The CaDC partnership does not take water policy positions as described in the CaDC in depth principles here.  The tool also illustrates the requirement for additional accuracy in landscape, population, land use, and weather data,

The open source CaDC efficiency explorer tool is described in greater detail in the statewide efficiency section here.  The underlying open source code is available here and that interactive tool leverages ARGO nonprofit public data infrastructure to provide the ability to iteratively improve this initial rapid assessment.

CaDC staff would like to thank the Water Foundation for generously funding this work, Claremont Graduate University for developing landscape area data, the CaDC local utility technical working group for their invaluable insight and CaDC academic partners for their review.

Click here for more information from the California Data Collaborative.

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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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