ACWA says water legislation needs major changes

SACRAMENTO, CA, Sept. 10, 2009 -- ACWA Executive Director Timothy Quinn today said the package of water-related bills now before the Legislature fails to advance the co-equal goals of water supply reliability and ecosystem health...

• Significant problems seen with package, but negotiations continue

SACRAMENTO, CA, Sept. 10, 2009 -- Association of California Water Agencies (ACWA) Executive Director Timothy Quinn today said the package of water-related bills now before the Legislature fails to advance the co-equal goals of water supply reliability and ecosystem health. Though some aspects of the package have improved in recent days, he said, major changes are needed to gain the statewide association's support.

"ACWA appreciates the hard work of the conference committee, but major problems still exist with this package," Quinn said. "In their current form, the bills are inconsistent with policies adopted by ACWA's Board of Directors, and if the conference report comes to a floor vote as is, ACWA intends to oppose it."

In particular, Quinn said the bills fail to treat water supply reliability as a co-equal goal and could lead to further loss of reliable water supplies. Provisions dealing with Delta governance could result in gridlock on issues of vital importance to ACWA members, including decisions to move forward with a more sustainable water conveyance system in the Delta.

"After losing 2.5 million acre-feet of water supply to regulatory intervention, this legislation would make it policy that the state's economy must suffer further water supply reductions," he said. "That is flatly unacceptable to ACWA and its members."

In addition, the package takes an approach to water conservation that could negatively affect urban and agricultural water users by relying too heavily on regulatory hammers instead of positive, incentive-based programs. Other provisions would disrupt water rights throughout the state.

The conference report does not include a finance package incorporating an acceptable general obligation bond, a key condition of support for ACWA.

"It is still possible to pass legislation in this session that would take a historic step forward, but it will require significant changes to the bills now before the Legislature," Quinn said. "We continue to urge lawmakers to work with the water community to advance the truly comprehensive package that California deserves."

ACWA is a statewide association of public agencies whose 450 members are responsible for about 90% of the water delivered in California. For more information, visit www.acwa.com.

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