Long-Term Conservation Report Gives State Agencies Permanent, Unchecked Control Over Local Water Decisions

John Woodling, Executive Director of the Regional Water Authority, which represents 21 water providers in the Sacramento region, issued the following statement regarding Gov. Brown’s final report “Making Water Conservation a California Way of Life.”

 “While the Regional Water Authority and local water providers strongly agree that using water efficiently should be a California way of life, the Administration’s final report goes too far in giving State regulatory agencies permanent, unchecked control over local water management decisions that, ultimately, will impact our economy and quality of life.

“While the Administration finally acknowledged the overwhelming evidence that California no longer suffers from a drought emergency, now they are proposing to provide the State Water Board with permanent authority to mandate water use reductions and to make those reductions more stringent over time without any legislative oversight.

“The proposal would set enforceable statewide conservation targets that largely ignore unique local conditions, water rights and investments made by water providers and their customers in building reliable water supplies. The result is a one-size-fits-all approach that would ration water even when local supplies are secure.

“RWA and its members favor an approach that focuses on balancing the implementation of all elements of the Governor’s California Water Action Plan—an approach that includes managing and preparing for dry periods, but also calls for expanding water storage capacity, the use of recycled water and stormwater capture, as well as increasing operational and regulatory efficiency.

“We have joined water suppliers from throughout the State to unite around an approach to water use efficiency that empowers local agencies and their customers to respond to their unique conditions. Together, we have outlined a detailed legislative proposal to enhance planning and preparation for future droughts.

“The proposal—embodied in Assembly Bill 1654 and Assembly Bill 968 (as proposed to be amended)—ensures that water use targets fully account for local factors, and entrusts local water suppliers with control over the actions required to meet those targets. Rather than handing control to set and then lower water use targets to unelected bureaucrats, our proposal would ensure the Legislature retains control and oversight over setting and meeting water use targets at the local level. We support the intent of the Administration’s proposal, but urge them to join us in crafting a more effective way forward that supports the economies and quality of life of California’s diverse communities.

“The Sacramento region is and has been committed to supporting long-term water efficiency. In fact, per capita water use in our region has steadily declined during the past decade, and total water use has not increased despite a 25 percent increase in population. Moreover, local water providers remain on target to meet existing state mandates to reduce urban water use by 20 percent by 2020.

“But this is only one piece of the puzzle. The Governor’s California Water Action Plan calls for a comprehensive and balanced approach that includes expanding the state’s ability to capture and store the rain that does come and improving the way the system is operated and regulated. We encourage the Administration to provide equal attention to all of those elements to build a reliable water future for California.”

John Woodling is Executive Director of the Regional Water Authority, a joint powers authority representing two dozen water providers and affiliates in the greater Sacramento area. Its primary mission is to help its members protect and enhance the reliability, availability, affordability and quality of water resources.

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