The Orange County Coastal Coalition, which I Chair, provides an opportunity to learn about and collaborate on current topics affecting not only our coastal cities, but those inland as well.
As such, our July 25 meeting provided a forum to hear from Mr. Robert Harding, Unit Manager, System Analysis Unit in the Water Resources Management Group with the Metropolitan Water District of Southern California; and Ms. Dee Zinke, Manager, External Affairs with the Metropolitan Water District of Southern California (Metropolitan).
Mr. Harding discussed the Bay Delta Conservation Plan and Southern California’s water supply and storage programs. Metropolitan’s mission is to provide its service area with adequate and reliable supplies of high-quality water to meet present and future needs in an environmentally and economically responsible way.
About half of Southern California’s supplies are local, and the other half is imported from either the Colorado River (via the Colorado River Aqueduct) or Northern California (via the State Water Project passing through the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta).
The Delta’s declining ecosystem, caused by a number of factors, has led to historic restrictions in water supply deliveries. The result is a pressing need to both improve the Delta environment and improve the water systems that help sustain the state economy.
The Bay Delta Conservation Plan is a long-term habitat restoration program. Water conveyance improvements will take ten to twelve years to construct. As a result, water districts are focused on alternative water supply strategies, including recycling, conservation and groundwater clean-up to make the best use of current supplies.
Water resource managers are also making interim habitat improvements to aid Delta species, with the aim of restoring pumping operations curtailed in recent years. These strategies will help sustain Southern California while the necessary long-term infrastructure improvements are completed. For more information, please email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Ms. Zinke also discussed the challenges and successes to supply water to Southern California and the 50-year adaptive management Bay Delta Conservation Plan. It is a collaborative effort between state and federal resource and wildlife agencies, environmental organizations and water districts throughout California. The goal is to map out a comprehensive, science-based, long-term conservation and restoration plan for the Delta, including new conveyance alternatives.
The problem is in the hub of California’s outdated statewide water system, located in Northern California’s Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta, a vital estuary for many species and the location of pumping facilities for the State Water Project and the Central Valley Project. These facilities provide vital water supplies for more than 25 million Californians, including 19 million in the Southland, and millions of acres of farmland.
As the Delta ecosystem has declined, new regulations have placed stringent restrictions on pumping water to protect certain fish species. This problem is, at times, compounded by years of low rainfall.
A great concern is the catastrophic consequences to homes, businesses, farms and habitat in the Delta from a 6.7 magnitude earthquake and how Southern California’s water supply could be cut off for up to two years. There are hundreds of miles of engineered levees that are susceptible to major failures due to flood and seismic risk.
Water districts like Metropolitan are prepared to make the investments necessary to improve the water conveyance system in the Delta; however, there currently is no funding to restore the Delta ecosystem.
Ms. Zinke informed Coastal Coalition members that an $11 billion bond measure will be placed on the November 2014 ballot that would allocate funds for Delta sustainability and water supply reliability, including statewide water system operational improvements, groundwater protection, water quality improvements, water recycling, conservation and watershed protection. For more information, please email email@example.com.
To view the Coastal Coalition meeting information and presentations, please click here. To be placed on the email distribution list for Orange County Coastal Coalition meetings, please send your email address to firstname.lastname@example.org.