ACWA releases report on regional impacts of 2014 drought

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The statewide Association of California Water Agencies (ACWA) released a report detailing specific impacts of the drought around the state and underscoring the need for a variety of strategies and actions to improve the resiliency of the state's water system.

The report, developed by a statewide Drought Action Group formed by ACWA in January, comes as California enters the hot summer months of one of the driest years on record. The report identifies impacts across a range of sectors and provides a bottom-up look at vulnerabilities created by the drought. It also details specific near-term projects that will shore up water supply reliability locally and regionally.

In addition to chronicling the regional impacts of the drought, the report outlines 10 key recommendations that would create greater resiliency in California's water system.

ACWA President John Coleman said that though the report is not an exhaustive list of impacts and actions, it does provide a unique perspective on regional impacts on the ground and reveals vulnerabilities that must be addressed now.

"There is no doubt that California's current drought is creating pockets of pain throughout the state -- each with its own unique perils. The drought has exposed vulnerabilities in our system that must be addressed if we are to avoid even more dire challenges in 10, 15, or 20 years," said Coleman. "This report succinctly outlines those vulnerabilities, creating a snapshot of how the drought is creating challenges for water managers and local economies throughout the state. Without water to grow our crops, we have less food to ship and less work at our usually bustling ports. The drought's ripple effects can be felt in virtually every sector, not to mention its impact on this year's wildlife season."

ACWA Executive Director Timothy Quinn said the report's 10 key recommendations offer a roadmap that can help move the state toward greater water system resiliency and balance.

"This report highlights actions water managers are taking in planning for and adapting to this historic drought. Our Drought Action Group participants leveraged their collective knowledge of drought impacts and potential solutions to develop an inventory of short-term and long-term strategies and actions to improve our water system so we can endure this current drought and prepare for the next," said Quinn.

"These strategies must be done as part of a comprehensive plan that includes expanded water conservation, water recycling, storm water capture and reuse, local and regional water storage, groundwater management and efforts to ensure a more resilient system," Quinn added. "Even if we see above-average rain and snowfall next year, the vulnerabilities revealed by this drought must be addressed and that work must begin now."

The recommendations, approved by the ACWA Board of Directors May 30, call for the following:

  • Funding and technical assistance for shovel-ready water infrastructure projects;
  • New surface and groundwater storage to help address the state's groundwater challenges;
  • Use of real-time data by state and federal agencies to allow greater flexibility under existing laws to maximize water supplies from the Delta;
  • Exploration of opportunities to further streamline water transfers;
  • Expedited approval of regulations or permits that encourage innovative technologies including water recycling and desalination;
  • State collaboration with local agencies to more closely coordinate planning documents in drought conditions;
  • Funding and technical support to help local agencies develop long-term water infrastructure projects that will help ensure reliable water supplies;
  • Disbursement of approved drought emergency funding as well as the development of additional funding, including through a 2014 water bond, for projects and programs that will improve California's aging water infrastructure and further the coequal goals;
  • Funding for water-use efficiency activities in disadvantaged communities and support for programs that are not locally cost effective but contribute to broad benefits for California;
  • Review of the state's overall 2014 drought response to look for opportunities to improve coordination for future dry conditions or extreme weather events.

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