ACWA testifies at joint information hearing on water

Association of California Water Agencies (ACWA) Executive Director Timothy Quinn provided testimony at a joint informational hearing before the Senate Natural Resources and Water Committee and the Budget and Fiscal Review Subcommittee No 2...

• Executive director points to urgent need for comprehensive water package

SACRAMENTO, CA, March 11, 2008 -- Association of California Water Agencies (ACWA) Executive Director Timothy Quinn provided the following testimony at a joint informational hearing before the Senate Natural Resources and Water Committee and the Budget and Fiscal Review Subcommittee No 2:

"I would like to thank Senators Steinberg and Lowenthal for convening this hearing. ACWA and its 450 public water agency members appreciate the opportunity to discuss what we view as the single most critical item before the Legislature -- a comprehensive water solution for California. This morning, I would like to make just a few essential points:

1. ACWA supports the approach laid out in Governor Schwarzenegger's recent letter. We also support continued development of a legislative solution and believe that these two objectives are highly compatible. We welcome Senator Machado's new proposed bill and are prepared to work with him, Senator Cogdill, the Administration, and others to help shape a bill with bipartisan support. ACWA will do everything it can to help both administrative and legislative solutions move forward and remain consistent with the Bay-Delta Conservation Plan and the Delta Vision process.

2. The Delta situation is extremely urgent. Time is definitely not on our side. Every day that goes by without a solution is another day of lost water supply and further deterioration of the environment. It is critical to support the sound public processes under way by initiating the time-consuming, legally required study of four options now without delay.

3. We have to be prepared to invest in the environmental and economic sustainability of the water supply system. This is not 1982. The discussion then was about implementing a 1957 water policy that centered on extracting the natural resources viewed as necessary for the economy of a growing state. The plans we are interested in today have a fundamentally different focus: investing in the sustainability of our water system. The current system is clearly not sustainable. ACWA strongly believes that to provide a reliable, high-quality water supply for the California economy we must invest in the environmental integrity of the system so we can meet the joint priorities of environmental protection and economic vitality. The Delta Vision Blue Ribbon Panel had it right when it concluded these environmental and economic objectives must be coequal.

4. Sustainability requires a comprehensive approach. We can't just pick our favorite water management tools. We have to invest in all of them, because each of the tools is designed for specific purposes. To a substantial degree the water supplies for our growing population and economy will come from substantial new investments in local water resources development, including water use efficiency, recycling, and brackish and ocean water desalination. But these local resource investments will not cure the environmental problems associated with our backbone water supply infrastructure. Under any foreseeable circumstance, this backbone infrastructure will continue to store and convey millions of acre-feet of water to most of California. To protect endangered species, it will be necessary to change the manner in which water is conveyed across the Delta. To provide the right temperatures and flows for fisheries and maintain adequate water supply reliability for the economy, we will need to invest in new groundwater and surface storage capacity. If we want to achieve the coequal objectives defined by the Delta Vision process for our children and grandchildren, we will have to modernize the infrastructure we inherited from our grandparents. Sustainability is not possible without these major investments.

5. Solutions must work for the state as a whole. Finally, while the crisis in the Delta is the most time-urgent water problem facing California, we must assure that solutions in the Delta work for all of California. As Delta solutions are hammered out, we will need to assure a) that we protect the interests of those who now use water in the Delta, b) that we will not solve water supply problems of the export regions at the expense of upstream regions, and c) that the allocation of costs is consistent with the beneficiaries pay principle such that construction costs are borne by water contractors conveying water through any new facilities and the public provides funds for major environmental habitat improvements."

ACWA is a statewide association of public agencies whose 450 members are responsible for about 90% of the water delivered in California.

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