NEWS WORTH NOTING: Rep. McNerney unveils new comprehensive water legislation; AquAlliance 10-year water transfer program lawsuit update; State Water Board approves drinking water standard for TCP; US EPA approves limits on mercury in CA waters
Rep. McNerney unveils new comprehensive water legislation
From Congressman Jerry McNerney’s office:
As the debate continues over how best to address California’s water needs, Congressman Jerry McNerney (CA-09) has introduced new comprehensive legislation that would provide a long-term plan to improve water sustainability in California and across the country.
The Water and Energy Sustainability through Technology Act (WEST Act) includes provisions that support innovative technologies and infrastructure for urban and agricultural areas, as well as efforts to improve efficiency.
“Our water infrastructure is declining and in need of repair,” said Congressman McNerney. “Water supply in California, and across the nation, is a serious challenge, but we’ve only been presented with short-sighted and ill-conceived plans that rely on the shipment of water from one area to another. Instead, we should be focusing on creating water sustainability through conservation, recycling, and capture.”
Currently, the United States uses approximately 80 billion gallons of fresh groundwater per day. Under the WEST Act, reimbursements would be authorized for recycling and reuse projects that create new water, and regional self-sufficiency would be improved through the encouragement of stormwater capture and increased water storage. It would also require a study on ways to improve leak detection location, mapping, and communications for pipeline systems and provide grants to implement these solutions.
“It’s time to change the narrative and focus on practical, forward-thinking solutions instead of high-cost, short-term fixes,” said Congressman McNerney. “California has long been a leading innovator in energy and technology and we now have the opportunity to apply that type of ingenuity to modernizing our water systems.”
The WEST Act would also establish a U.S. Bureau of Reclamation groundwater information system and groundwater management technical assistance, in addition to a smart energy and water efficiency program to support innovative technology solutions for agricultural use and to improve efficiency at federal buildings.
“This bill is the result of extensive engagement with a diverse group of stakeholders – including farmers, technology innovators, industry and community leaders,” Congressman McNerney stated. “These are tangible, commonsense approaches that we can accomplish in the short-term that will benefit all of us in the long-term.”
To launch the legislation, Congressman McNerney hosted a press conference yesterday, featuring local leaders and advocates who voiced their support for this legislation.
To view the full press conference, click here.
AquAlliance 10-Year Water Transfer Program Lawsuit Update: Enough water for Chico for 200 years
The federal District Court in Fresno issued an order last week requesting additional information from the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation (USBR) and San Luis Delta Mendota Water Authority (SLDMWA) over their approval of the 10-Year Water Transfer Program (10-Year Transfers). This is in response to a lawsuit filed in May 2015 by AquAlliance and allied groups alleging inadequate disclosure of impacts and the lack of mitigation for significant water transfers from the Sacramento Valley through the Delta to the San Joaquin Valley.
The Court seeks greater understanding of the Agencies evidence for their conclusions regarding groundwater conditions and the influence of climate change in the Environmental Impact Statement/Report (EIS/R). “It is gratifying to see the court’s focus on the existing conditions of Sacramento Valley groundwater,” stated Barbara Vlamis, AquAlliance’s executive director. “It is an area of intense interest to AquAlliance and its members, so we aggressively pursued groundwater conditions in written and oral comments,” she concluded.
As proposed, the 10-Year Transfers could send up to 600,000 acre-feet of Sacramento Valley water south of the Delta – each year. If history is any guide, half of the transfer water may come from groundwater substitution. When combined with additional state approved transfers, the total could be over 800,000 acre-feet each year. The lawsuit asks the court to declare that the Agencies’ Environmental Impact Statement/Report was arbitrary and capricious, ignored relevant new information and failed to meet minimum requirements of state and federal laws.
 California Sportfishing Protection Alliance, Central Delta Water Agency, Local Agencies of the North Delta, and South Delta Water Agency.
600,000 acre-feet each year for 10 years is equivalent to what a city of 100,000 people would use in 200 years.
Click link to view court document: AquAlliance request for additional briefing
State Water Board Approves Drinking Water Standard for 1,2,3-Trichloropropane
From the State Water Resources Control Board:
Today the State Water Resources Control Board adopted a drinking water standard for the regulation of the contaminant 1,2,3-Trichloropropane in tap water. Under the regulation, public water suppliers will be required to notify their customers and take corrective action when drinking water exceeds the allowable limit.
The man-made chemical, used historically in industrial cleaning solvents and some soil fumigant pesticides, is a recognized carcinogen that may cause cancer after long-term exposure. Commonly known as 1,2,3-TCP, it has been found in groundwater sources, primarily in the Central Valley.
“1,2,3-TCP is not naturally occurring and too many Californians have been exposed to it for far too long, which is why it has been our top priority for standard setting this year,” said Felicia Marcus, chair of the State Water Board. “This standard will better protect public health and allow communities and the state to get on with the job of getting it out of our water supplies.”
The State Water Board’s Division of Drinking Water set the standard for 1,2,3-TCP at 5 parts per trillion (ppt). The drinking water standard, also known as a maximum contaminant level, is a set limit on what’s an allowable concentration of a contaminant in tap water. This is the first drinking water standard adopted by the State Water Board since the Division of Drinking Water joined the Board from the Department of Public Health in July 2014.
Based on 2015 data, the Division of Drinking Water has estimated that 103 water systems serving approximately 920,000 Californians have detected 1,2,3-TCP above 5 ppt in at least one drinking water source. Communities in several counties within the Central Valley are particularly impacted due to their reliance on groundwater and past use of pesticides containing 1,2,3-TCP in many agricultural areas.
The regulation will require that more than 4,000 public water systems statewide begin quarterly sampling for 1,2,3-TCP in their drinking water sources in January 2018. Systems will be in or out of compliance with the new drinking water standard based on the average of four quarters of sampling.
If a water system’s four-quarter average is above the 5 ppt standard, it must publicly notify its customers of the violation and take corrective action to resolve the exceedance and avoid future violations of the standard. The Division of Drinking Water encourages systems with previous monitoring data indicating a high potential for future violations to begin taking corrective action prior to January 2018.
The State Water Board will assist water systems in violation of the 1,2,3-TCP standard reach compliance by offering technical help. In some instances for certain communities, funding assistance might be available through the State Water Board’s regular financial assistance programs.
US EPA approves Limits on Mercury in California Waters
Rules include new protections for Native American cultural use and subsistence fishing
From the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency:
Today, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency announced the approval of new water quality criteria for mercury in California waters. The new rules, developed by the State Water Resources Control Board, set mercury limits in fish tissue to protect human health and aquatic-dependent wildlife. New protections also have been added for tribal cultural use and subsistence fishing.
In California, Gold Rush-era mining operations released millions of pounds of naturally occurring mercury, a potent neurotoxin, into state waterways. Once there, the toxic metal builds up in fish tissue and is consumed by people and wildlife. To address that risk, the state’s new criteria set maximum mercury limits in fish tissue for various species caught for sport, subsistence and cultural practices.
“We commend the State Water Resources Control Board for working with numerous tribes and dischargers to develop and adopt water quality standards for protecting human health and wildlife throughout the state from the harmful effects of mercury,” said Alexis Strauss, EPA’s Acting Regional Administrator for the Pacific Southwest. “By focusing on mercury concentrations in fish tissue, these rules will have a direct and positive impact on public health and the environment.”
The state’s new rules set five new water quality criteria for mercury in fish tissue for tribal subsistence fishing, general subsistence fishing, prey fish, sport fish and for fish commonly consumed by the protected California Least Tern. The new criteria will help protect and inform the public about levels of mercury in popular sport fish like salmon, bass, sturgeon and trout.
“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, but are often contaminated by mercury. Mercury is found in many fresh water bodies in California, and is largely a legacy of the Gold Rush era, and difficult to deal with, but cannot be ignored,” said State Water Board Chair Felicia Marcus. “This approval is an important step in focusing attention on what can be done to limit exposures.”
The new mercury criteria will apply to inland surface waters, enclosed bays, and estuaries of the state, except for water bodies where approved site-specific objectives already exist, such as: San Francisco Bay and Delta; Clear Lake; and portions of Walker Creek, Cache Creek, and Guadalupe River Watersheds.
For more information on the health effects of exposures to mercury, please visit: https://www.epa.gov/mercury/health-effects-exposures-mercury
To view a copy of the approval letter and standards, please visit: http://www.waterboards.ca.gov/water_issues/programs/mercury/docs/ca_hg_approval_letter_with_enclosures_signed_071417.pdf
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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.