New California Water Action Plan outlines state's future water goals

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SACRAMENTO, CA, Jan. 28, 2014 -- Amid one of the worst droughts on record, the state of California's Natural Resources Agency, Environmental Protection Agency and Department of Food and Agriculture recently released the state's final Water Action Plan -- a program outlining a variety of goals for the next five years.

The endeavor will guide state efforts to enhance water supply reliability, restore damaged and destroyed ecosystems, and improve the resilience of California's infrastructure. At the direction of Governor Edmund G. Brown Jr., a collaborative effort of state agencies and nearly 100 substantive public and stakeholder comments formed the plan to set direction for a host of near- and long-term actions on water issues for the state.

Brown's proposed 2014-15 budget lays a solid fiscal foundation for implementing near-term actions for the plan, recommending $618.7 million in funding for water efficiency projects, wetland and watershed restoration, groundwater programs, conservation, flood control, and integrated water management. Final revisions to the draft plan, released in October, include an expanded section on drought response and a new effort focused on better management of Sierra Nevada headwaters that helps water storage and quality as well as ecosystems.

Brown's proposed budget would provide $472.5 million in Proposition-84 funds to the Department of Water Resources (DWR) for integrated regional water management. The bond funds would leverage local and federal investment in projects that reduce demand, build supply and offer additional benefits such as wildlife habitat and flood management. The budget also placed immediate emphasis on water and energy use efficiency as well as wetlands and coastal watershed restoration to further support the resiliency of water supply and ecosystems.

His budget would also allow DWR to better monitor the groundwater resources that provide more than one-third of California's supplies in dry years, as well as support the development of a state backstop for sustainable groundwater management practices by the State Water Resources Control Board, should local efforts to do so not materialize. Further, all of the near-and long-term actions in the plan center on sustaining supplies of water for people, the environment, industry, and agriculture. Drought threatens to force the fallowing of hundreds of thousands of acres of farmland, unemploy thousands, and potentially raise supermarket food prices.

Key actions identified in the plan include:

  • Making conservation a California way of life
  • Increasing regional self-reliance and integrated water management across all levels of government
  • Achieving the co-equal goals for the Delta
  • Protecting and restoring important ecosystems
  • Managing and preparing for dry periods
  • Expanding water storage capacity and improving groundwater management
  • Providing safe water for all communities
  • Increasing flood protection
  • Increasing operational and regulatory efficiency
  • Identifying sustainable and integrated financing opportunities

See also: "CA declares drought state of emergency, water agencies stable, research shows".

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