Managing Drought in a Changing Climate: Four Essential Reforms
From the PPIC’s Water Center:
California’s climate is changing. Hotter temperatures, a shrinking snowpack, shorter and more intense wet seasons, rising sea level, and more volatile precipitation—with wetter wet years and drier dry years—are stressing the state’s water management system. Recent climate projections indicate that the pace of change will increase.
To avoid unwanted social, economic, and environmental consequences, the water system will need to adapt to greater climate extremes and growing water scarcity. While California is making good progress in some areas of drought management, a more focused plan of action is needed. Successful adaptation will require strong leadership at the state and local levels, and cooperation on all fronts.
The 2012–16 drought—the hottest in the state’s recorded history and one of the driest—offered a window into the future under a warming climate and lessons for managing future droughts. Using these lessons as a starting point, this report offers a road map of essential reforms to prepare for and respond to droughts in California’s changing climate.
Working Group Recommends Steps to Make State’s Infrastructure Climate-Safe
From the California Natural Resources Agency:
A new report by a working group of scientific and engineering experts outlines a step-wise approach to help California’s infrastructure become more resilient to the growing threats of climate change.
The report released today by the Climate-Safe Infrastructure Working Group, established by AB 2800 (Quirk) of 2016, summarizes the challenges posed by higher temperatures, more frequent and intense storms, drought, wildfires and sea-level rise and recommends steps to help design and build infrastructure to withstand those threats.
“California is fortunate to have a scientific community willing to engage with engineers and architects to identify concrete actions to help us build a better future,” California Natural Resources Secretary John Laird said. “This report and its recommendations provide a clear set of next steps to prepare for the inevitable impacts of climate change and make sure that the foundation is laid for the safety, well-being and prosperity of all Californians.”
Prepared over the past nine months, the report offers a compelling vision of climate-safe infrastructure and a comprehensive framework to achieve it. The framework involves providing needed scientific data and analytics, improving the project pre-development process, establishing appropriate governance mechanisms, including updated standards and codes used by engineers and architects, securing adequate funding mechanisms and providing support during the implementation of projects.
AB 2800, sponsored by the Union of Concerned Scientists and the Professional Engineers in California Government, called for an in-depth look at information needs and institutional barriers.
“It’s gratifying to see the efforts started two years ago come to fruition with the release of this report. We can’t start planning for our changing climate future fast enough. Infrastructure, when done right, can protect lives, livelihoods and communities, all of which will grow more vulnerable as climate change impacts in our state worsen,” said Jamesine Rogers Gibson, senior climate analyst at the Union of Concerned Scientists.
California is a global leader in investing in, advancing and using research to set proactive climate change policy. The report released today paves the way to better integrate climate impacts into the planning, design, construction, operation and maintenance of critical infrastructure. It calls on the state to strengthen adaptation as a political priority and thereby provide national and global leadership equal to that on greenhouse gas mitigation.
To access the report, technical appendices and related materials developed as part of the Climate-Safe Infrastructure Working Group’s deliberations, please visit http://resources.ca.gov/climate/climate-safe-infrastructure-working-group/. (Website will be updated with new report at 12 p.m. PDT today). The most up-to-date climate science and research on climate change impacts and adaptation can be found in California’s recently released Fourth Climate Change Assessment, at www.ClimateAssessment.ca.gov.
Lawsuit Confronts Water Board’s Approval of Oil-waste Dumping in Kern County
Chemicals From Unlined Pits Already Contaminating Groundwater
The Center for Biological Diversity sued the Central Valley Regional Water Quality Control Board today over its decision to allow continued dumping of toxic oil-waste fluid into 83 unlined pits near Buttonwillow, Calif. The regional board’s staff confirmed that harmful chemicals discharged into these pits have spread underground and contaminated groundwater used for water-supply wells.
“Despite knowing this contamination is spreading, the water board is letting the oil industry continue this dangerous dumping,” said Hollin Kretzmann, a senior attorney at the Center. “It’s a slap in the face to the families, farms and businesses that depend on the Central Valley’s precious water resources.”
Valley Water Management Company dumps an average of 2.8 million gallons of chemical-laden wastewater per day into its McKittrick 1 and 1-3 pit facilities near Buttonwillow. The contamination has spread underground for at least 2.2 miles, but the full extent of the damage is still unknown.
The regional board’s staff report confirms that wastewater has reached multiple groundwater sources below, including those connected to active water-supply wells. It also confirms that the discharged wastewater contains hazardous chemicals, including dangerous levels of cancer-causing benzene. As a result of the contamination, groundwater that had been suitable for municipal and agricultural use is now unsuitable for both.
However, at its meeting on April 5, the regional board rejected calls from the public to halt the toxic discharges, instead voting to allow the dumping to continue indefinitely with no timetable for stopping.
On May 7 the Center petitioned the State Water Resources Control Board to rescind the regional board’s decision and order an immediate halt to the discharges, but the agency ignored the appeal.
Today’s lawsuit filed in the Kern County Superior Court challenges the regional board’s decision not to shut down the facility even as the groundwater contamination spreads.
California is the only state with significant oil production that allows wastewater to be dumped into unlined pits. There are hundreds of active pits around the state. In 2015 an independent scientific panel recommended that California phase out the use of unlined pits, citing their danger to groundwater. Despite calls from an independent panel of experts to phase out this dangerous practice, the regional board has refused to do so. The regional board has even approved the disposal of wastewater from fracking, despite state prohibitions against this kind of disposal.
Valley Water receives some wastewater from the South Belridge oilfield, which is one of the most heavily fracked fields in the state.
“The people of Kern County already suffer from some of the worst fossil fuel pollution in the nation,” Kretzmann said. “They shouldn’t have to sacrifice another drop of water to the oil industry.”
LA District commander tours San Diego, Riverside project sites
From the US Army Corps of Engineers:
“Seeing project sites myself and talking to our team members makes it much easier for me to clearly advocate for the Los Angeles District,” he said.
So, from Aug. 28 to 30, Barta traveled to several of the LA District’s project sites in San Diego and Riverside counties to meet with stakeholders, Congressional representatives, project managers and District employees to learn about each project, the impact it has on the local community, challenges engineers and project managers face and ways to resolve those challenges.
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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.