NEWS WORTH NOTING: Natural Resources Agency Seeks Public Comment on State’s Climate Adaptation Plan; Metropolitan ends SoCal water alert; Invalidation of state chromium-6 drinking water standard opens door to affordable compliance options
Natural Resources Agency Seeks Public Comment on Update to the State’s Climate Adaptation Plan
Today the California Natural Resources Agency released a draft of the Safeguarding California Plan: 2017 Update and seeks public comment on the State’s strategy for adapting to a changing climate.
The draft Safeguarding update released today builds on eight years of action by various state departments and shows progress since the release of the first California Climate Adaptation Strategy in 2009. This 2017 update provides recommendations and next steps to advance adaptation in 10 sectors that include water, agriculture, public health and biodiversity. As California continues to experience rising average temperatures, shrinking mountain snowpack, warmer storms, and higher sea levels, the State must consider climate change in its planning, investment, and public outreach. The Natural Resources Agency leads California’s climate change adaptation effort under several statutes and executive orders intended to foster change throughout state and local government.
The hundreds of actions and recommendations found in this draft represent a comprehensive effort by experts across 27 state agencies to describe ongoing efforts and needed actions to ensure public safety and environmental protection as average temperatures warm, precipitation patterns change and sea levels rise. The document provides a succinct “to do” list for state departments that will help the public measure progress. Some examples: Develop a map of climate change refugia (places where local conditions persist over time) for certain wildlife species, address environmental justice issues around supporting community solar projects for low-income customers, and advance programs for “living shorelines” that may include wetland plants, aquatic vegetation, oyster reefs or sand fill.
The Natural Resources Agency seeks public comment on the draft plan through May and will hold four public meetings this month to gather input from interested citizens, scientists, government officials, and other stakeholders. The Safeguarding California Plan: 2017 Update document will be revised based on public comments, with a final version scheduled for release in July. Upcoming meetings to gather input on the plan:
May 16: Merced Safeguarding California Workshop
Time: 1:30pm to 5:00pm
Location: UC Merced, 5200 Lake Rd, Merced, CA 95340
May 22: Bay Area Safeguarding California Workshop
Time: 1:30pm to 5:00pm
Location: 455 Golden Gate Ave, San Francisco, CA 94102
May 30: Coachella Safeguarding California Workshop
Time: 1:30pm to 5:00pm
Location: Coachella Public Works Department, 1515 6th St, Coachella, CA 92236
May 31: Los Angeles Safeguarding California Workshop
Time: 1:30pm to 5:00pm
Location: Location TBD, check for details at http://www.resources.ca.gov/.
June 12: San Diego Safeguarding California Workshop
Time: 1:30pm to 5:00pm
Location: University of San Diego, Mother Rosalie Hall, Warren Auditorium,
5998 Alcala Park, San Diego, CA 92110
Since California released its first adaptation plan in 2009, a series of extreme natural events – drought, record ‐ breaking higher average temperatures and a practically non ‐ existent Sierra Nevada snowpack last winter – have heightened the urgency to act. More information about the state’s climate change adaptation efforts is available at http://resources.ca.gov/climate/safeguarding/.
The Safeguarding California Plan: 2017 Update is available here.
Metropolitan takes region off water alert, but maintains call for voluntary water saving
District board puts Southern California on Water Supply Watch, as agency forecasts record water storage gains in 2017
From the Metropolitan Water District:
Poised to put more water in storage in 2017 than any year in history, Metropolitan Water District’s Board of Directors today urged local agencies to continue water savings through voluntary conservation measures.
A month after Gov. Jerry Brown declared an end to the statewide drought emergency, Metropolitan’s board approved the voluntary approach given the importance of maintaining lower levels of demands into the years ahead. Officially, a voluntary conservation approach is termed by Metropolitan a Water Supply Watch condition.
“This level reflects the public’s remarkable water-saving response and our conservation and outreach programs prior to and during the five-year drought, which were critical in helping us sustain demand cutbacks,” said Metropolitan board Chairman Randy Record.
“As our current advertising and outreach campaign says, the drought emergency may be over, but we all need to get in the lifelong habit of saving water,” he added.
Water supply gains from significantly improved statewide hydrologic conditions were another reason for the board’s action. Last month, California broke the record for the wettest year ever in the northern Sierra, prompting the Department of Water Resources to increase its State Water Project allocation to 85 percent. Under the allocation, Metropolitan will have access to nearly 1.7 million acre-feet of water from the state project this year.
Metropolitan General Manager Jeffrey Kightlinger said the district will maximize state project deliveries by putting as much as 1 million acre-feet of water or more in reserves this year. (An acre-foot is about 326,000 gallons, enough water to supply two typical Southland households for a year.)
“Although 1 million acre-feet would be the largest single-year storage increase in Metropolitan’s history, it will not return regional reserves to pre-drought levels,” Kightlinger cautioned. “That’s why all of us should voluntarily continue to embrace our water-saving practices.”
Invalidation of state chromium-6 drinking water standard opens door to affordable compliance options
From Twenty-nine Palms Water District:
A Superior Court judge has ordered the State Water Resources Control Board to implement a new drinking water standard for chromium-6 that takes into account the limitations of disadvantaged communities.
In the ruling, the court said the Department of Public Health (DPH) failed to consider economic feasibility when, in early May 2014, it set the nation’s first drinking water standard in California for chromium-6—a maximum contaminant level (MCL) of 10 parts per billion (ppb). This limit is equivalent to 10 drops of water in an Olympic-sized swimming pool, and is far stricter than the federal standard for total chromium at 100 ppb.
“We are pleased with the judge’s ruling and his sensitivity to disadvantaged communities,” said Ray Kolisz, General Manager of Twentynine Palms Water District (TPWD), which serves about 18,000 residents in an area that is entirely considered a disadvantaged community, 25% of which are severely disadvantaged. “The protection of public health is our priority. Unfortunately, leaving the MCL would leave us vulnerable to real threats while requiring significant water rate hikes for businesses and residents.”
For many of the state’s water suppliers, including TPWD, the standard saddled residents and businesses with unaffordable options to comply. The financial burden associated with the stricter standard also threatened to crowd out needs to tackle more imminent threats to drinking water in the area such as arsenic and nitrates.
In his May 5 ruling, Superior Court Judge Christopher E. Krueger sided with economically-challenged water systems. In his decision, Judge Krueger said the Department failed to consider its own estimate that the bills of small water systems are expected to go up by $5,630 per year, or $469.17 per month, to meet the new standard.
He concluded: “this case is remanded to the Department with orders to withdraw the current MCL and establish a new MCL.” Additionally, Judge Krueger directed the Department to comply with the Legislature’s directive to consider the economic feasibility of compliance, with particular attention to small water systems and their users. Lastly, he directed the Department to set the MCL as close as economically feasible to the public health goal of 0.02 ppb.
Kolisz said: “State law requires the adoption of a standard for chromium-6, which was acknowledged by the court. By requiring the state to take affordability seriously in enacting a new standard, we will use the time wisely in looking for treatment systems that are affordable to our residents and businesses.”
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The Twentynine Palms Water District, founded in 1955, serves a High Desert area of about 18,000 residents within an 87-square-mile area in the city of Twentynine Palms and outlying areas in San Bernardino County. It maintains approximately 8,000 meter services, 200 miles of pipeline and 17 million gallons of water storage capacity.
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