Smart planning now can avoid future water crisis bills to be heard April 24

California can avoid a water supply crisis potentially more damaging than the ongoing energy crisis if the Legislature provides community planners with basic tools to harmonize their available local water supplies with development projects, according to the Association of California Water Agencies (ACWA).

SACRAMENTO, Calif., April 23, 2001--California can avoid a water supply crisis potentially more damaging than the ongoing energy crisis if the Legislature provides community planners with basic tools to harmonize their available local water supplies with development projects, according to the Association of California Water Agencies (ACWA).

``Current and future residents deserve to know that the water they use in and around their homes and that is necessary to support their jobs will be available and that local governments have not allowed development to outstrip those supplies,'' said Steve Hall, ACWA executive director.

The Senate Agriculture and Water Committee will consider two bills on April 24, 1:30 p.m. Room 3191, that would regulate growth in line with water -- SB 61O, authored by Sen. Jim Costa (D-Fresno) and SB 221 by Sen. Sheila Kuehl (D-Los Angeles). The bills are intended to plug loopholes in Costa's SB 901, passed in 1995, which sought to link water supply and growth. But ACWA believes that in their current form, neither will solve the problem.

ACWA is working with other affected interests to amend the current bills so that they integrate issues of water supply and growth at the earliest steps of the development process.

ACWA Executive Director Steve Hall said, ``Local planning agencies have powerful tools to guide the development process such as the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA), the Urban Management Water Planning Act, the Subdivision Map Act, and SB 901. However, these planning processes largely stand in legal isolation from one another,'' Hall said.

ACWA has developed an approach that would integrate these powerful tools. Specifically, the approach requires urban water suppliers to quantify available supplies and identify local thresholds for significant impacts on those supplies. The information would then be more meaningful in terms of land use decisions.

Under this approach, cities and counties would obtain updated water supply information annually to guide their planning decisions and document their EIR processes. Developers would have the information available to assess project feasibility and scale.

``Substantial changes in California law are required to more fully integrate land use decisions and water supply planning,'' Hall noted. ``Without these protections in place, no one can be reasonably assured that we are not building ourselves into a future water supply crisis.''

ACWA has prepared a white paper on this issue titled, ``California's Land Use & Water Supply Planning: A Current Assessment and Solution Framework.'' It is available on ACWA's Web site at www.acwanet.com.

ACWA is a statewide organization whose 440 public water agencies are responsible for about 90% of the water delivered in California. For more information, visit www.acwanet.com.

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