Getting to Know the Other Players

Back to Meral...

Later in the morning on March 8th, the State Senate Committee on Natural Resources and Water also let a group of seven water experts respond to remarks made earlier by Delta Watermaster Craig Wilson and Gerald Meral.

Each speaker got about 5 minutes to speak.

Mike Wade stated that the DWM "got off on the wrong foot" with the reasonable use doctrine report. Farmers really are efficient, he said, and the state should talk to University of California Extension irrigation experts to get their input on how more efficiency may be achieve by agriculture. Over 130 letters were sent in objecting to the DWM's report. Abandon the heavy-handed approach to efficiency and bring in real experts.

Juliet Christian-Smith of Pacific Institute stated that reducing Delta diversions is important to the future of the Delta ecosystem. She praised the DWM's report, and informed the Committee that she represents the Pacific Institute to the Agricultural Water Management Council and is very familiar with what occurs "on the ground" with agricultural water use efficiency. As new facilities and restoration costs become known, they could make presently costly efficiency methods more cost competitive.

Ellen Hanak stated that the Public Policy Institute of California's (PPIC) new report finds there could be as much as two million acre-feet of reduced Delta exports to south-of-Delta and west-of-Delta (i.e., the south Bay Aqueduct contractors of the southeastern Bay Area) with urban water conservation measures. Rather than study agricultural water use efficiency, the PPIC team opted to study greater use of price signals for water transfers. She stated that because the water transfer market in California had stagnated in the last few years, they preferred to deal with "barriers to transfers so that farmers have more access to market signals for water."

David Guy encouraged everyone to read the first sentence of Article X, Section 2 which he said seems to focus on maximizing the beneficial use of water. He stated there are lots of opportunities for success in the Delta. He urged that everyone should "seek stability for Delta water supplies" and increase regional self-sufficiency.

Barry Nelson commented that agriculture in California is enormously diverse, but we need a consistent approach to agricultural water use efficiency. On BDCP, Nelson offered a "road map" to carry BDCP to a conclusion, including:

  • we must have biological outcome objectives for the plan
  • we need to get serious about safe export levels from the Delta - BDCP needs to consider the Delta flow criteria from the State Water Resources Control Board, and so far it has not.
  • we need cost-effective solutions, since budgets and Delta problems are worse than when CalFED was completed in 2000.
  • we must place greater emphasis on environmental assurances within the BDCP
  • we need a more open process than we have had so far.

Greg Gartrell stated that what is needed now is more emergency preparedness. We know now that earthquake effects on the Delta are not expected to be catastrophic, problems more likely to last on the scale of months rather than years. Grateful that MWD is doing studies on how to respond to Delta problems in the aftermath of a large earthquake that causes levee damage. He also pointed out that in a wet year like what we're in, levee failure is less of a problem given the hydraulic pressure of naturally high flows pushing back tidal salt water. He also stated that we need habitat restoration funding now, and there are some water supply actions needed now. (His full statement to the Committee is attached to this email.)

Regarding isolated conveyance, Gartrell advocates a small facility on the order of 3,000 to 6,000 cubic feet per second in capacity. Building such a facility, rather than the large 15,000 cfs facility, would result in a more full utilization of the conveyance while causing fewer problems internal to the Delta, and avoiding building an asset that would be full only a small fraction of the time—the rest of the time, he warned, it would be a "stranded asset."

Gartrell stated that we need more dry year water supply, and we can only get it by increasing our storage capacity. We need both more groundwater storage and surface storage, he said.

Roger Patterson of Metropolitan Water District (MWD) expressed pleasure at Governor Brown's appointment of Jerry Meral to supervise the Bay Delta Conservation Plan. Patterson stated that by the time BDCP is done, MWD will have spent about $250 million. He then described MWD's water use efficiency programs contained in the District's new Integrated Resources Plan. Patterson claims that MWD's efficiency efforts will take southern California beyond the state water reform package's "20 (percent savings) by 2020" program, and that MWD's efforts also exceed the recommendations of the Public Policy Institute of California.

"Conservation will be our biggest source of supply" to southern California cities, Patterson claimed. The Delta, he said, is where we get our wet year water for our recycling programs, so MWD still wants to fix the Delta.

Committee chair Fran Pavley asked Patterson what policies will MWD use to promote conservation?

Patterson replied that MWD would double its conservation supply in the next 20 years, would double its wastewater recycling capacity, and would increase stormwater capture "somewhat."

Vice-chair La Malfa stated that "MWD deserves a lot of credit for solving supply problems," then asked CFWC's Mike Wade if he would please submit some "agricultural water conservation success stories." Wade said he would, and Christian-Smith from the Pacific Institute piped up to offer her organization's activities documenting agricultural conservation successes as well.

Senator Fuller thanked the panelists for coming, stating her foregone conclusion that "we need more supply and more conservation." Senator Kehoe, from the San Diego region, also thanked the panelists. She also noted that in her area dams are being raised to create more supply, and "we are also using conservation" to meet San Diego's needs.

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