Environmental community releases water "blueprint" for California
Dialogue on meeting our water needs without dams begins and the public
will have to take part or we will get stuck with the bill
by Jenna Olsen
broad coalition of environmental groups
from throughout the state of California has released a "blueprint"
paper to begin a dialogue with community, business, agricultural, environmental,
urban, and other interests ,all needing a sound and clean water future.
The blueprint is a 40-page document that describes an environmentally and economically sound water supply reliability program. For a copy of the document or to arrange to participate in the dialogue on the document, please email a request to: jenna.olsensierraclub.org. The following is a summary of the blueprint.
||The Blueprint articulates an affirmative program for improving
water supply reliability in California. This blueprint can be the basis
of a successful CalFed Bay-Delta plan to restore the ecological health and
improve management of water in the San Francisco Bay-Delta system.|
Blueprint strategies for water supply reliability
||The blueprint describes a broad range of alternatives to reduce
demand for water and increase supply of water, without building costly and
environmentally damaging new dams. Some of these approaches include the
conservation: Agriculture uses over 80 percent of the developed water
supply in California. Relatively small changes in agricultural demand can
yield tremendous quantities of water. For example, a one to five percent
reduction in agricultural demand due to reduction in evaporative losses
or other changes in water use could generate 340,000 1,700,000 acre-feet.
Market based incentives: Appropriately regulated transfers, water acquisitions, and paying
farmers to fallow their land during a drought could generate a substantial
dry year water supply. For example, voluntary dry year fallowing of 5 to
15 percent of the land currently used to grow alfalfa, pasture forage and
cotton in the Central Valley and Colorado River regions could potentially
generate up to 2.1 million acre-feet.
Urban water conservation: Urban residents and businesses can do their part to improve water
use efficiency, by choosing efficient appliances and landscaping for their
homes. For example, a 20 percent statewide reduction in landscape water
use would yield 520,000 1,400,000 acre-feet. Replacing 50 to 100 percent
of the average washing machines in use in 1995 with currently available
horizontal axis washing machines could generate 97,000 to 194,000 acre-feet.
If businesses become more efficient, they can conserve 350,000 to 650,000
acre-feet of water.
Wastewater recycling: By the year 2020, according to CalFed, over 3 million acre-feet
of wastewater will be generated annually by urban coastal areas. By CalFed's
analysis, California could recycle over half of this, for total of up to
1,720,000 acre-feet in recycled supply.
During wet years, we can save water underground where space has already
been created from previous pumping. This water would then be available when
most needed, during dry years.
Change the operation of existing
reservoirs: Throughout California, more than 4,000
existing dams and reservoirs, involving more than 60 million acre feet of
combined storage capacity, are operated according to outdated, piecemeal
rules. Relatively modest changes in how we operate these can do much to
improve water supply reliability. Before rushing to build costly new dams
and reservoirs, a comprehensive reassessment of re-operation opportunities
Restore upper watersheds: Restored meadows could better retain flood flows, slowly releasing
the water over time. Such restoration can help minimize flood damages downstream,
while also serving to store flood waters for use during drier seasons.
Change Delta operations: By taking less water out of the Delta when fish are most vulnerable,
and instead pumping at less sensitive times, we could better protect the
Delta and water supplies.
- Maximize conservation and recycling potential;
- Jump-start groundwater management and appropriate groundwater
- Facilitate appropriate water transfers;
- Ensure environmental water reliability;
- Improve the operation of existing dams and canals;
- Develop accurate estimates for current water supply and
- Price water to reflect its true economic and environmental
- Include an accurate analysis of how much water we need
now and how much we will need in the future. CalFed overstates our current
water use by up to 1.2 million acre feet (by omitting conservation successes)
and bases future estimates on this inaccurate baseline.
- Recognize that the law of supply and demand applies to
water. If taxpayer subsidies were eliminated, demand for water would fall.
- Analyze promising conservation strategies.
- Recognize that a restored environment would reduce water
supply uncertainty for users.
||The Blueprint is endorsed by: Save
San Francisco Bay Association, Natural Resources Defense Council, The Bay
Institute of San Francisco, Environmental Defense Fund, California Trout,
Public Officials for Water and Environmental Reform, League of Women Voters
of California, Mono Lake Committee, Sierra Nevada Alliance, Sierra Club,
Earth Island Institute, California Sportfishing Protection Alliance, Pacific
Coast Federation of Fishermen's Associations, Natural Heritage Institute,
Center for Marine Conservation, Clean Water Action, California League of
Conservation Voters, Friends of the River, Marin Conservation League, Earth
||Since the public hearings in April
and May, CalFed has been putting together a "draft phased plan"
for California water. The plan is broken up into two stages (Stage 1 is
the first seven years, Stage 2 is everything after that). Right now, CalFed's
draft plan calls for building of dams in the first stage; decisions on whether
to build the infamous peripheral canal have been put off until Stage 2.|
Secretary of Interior Babbitt is
shep-herding the draft plan (known as the draft preferred alternative) through
a series of small group talks. While a few public comment periods remain
before the plan is finalized, the plan becomes more and more difficult to
change as the process moves forward. The document to be released will be
the "Revised Phase II Report" a summary of the CalFed program
plans and a description of how the program elements will be implemented
(the draft preferred alternative). The Phase II Report will also contain
a list of the actions to be undertaken during Stage 1.
Key concerns about CalFed's Stage
1 plans include:
- Lack of measurable objectives for all of CalFed's programs,
and particularly for the ecosystem restoration, water conservation and
efficiency, and water quality programs.
- Plans to begin dam construction, site selection, and
permitting in Stage 1, with Shasta and Los Vaqueros Dam enlargements and
Sites Reservoirs identified as possible locations.
- Lack of a commitment to correct methodological flaws
inflated demand estimates for cities now and in the future, and a "no
action" baseline that assumes more water exported from the delta than
is exported today.
||Decisions regarding building a peripheral
canal should remain in Stage 2.|
Tentative schedule for CalFed
12/15/98: Release "Revised Draft Phase II Report"
with draft preferred alternative
12/15/98-2/1/99: Informal comment period (45 days) on "Revised
Draft Phase II Report" 4 or 5 informal public workshops held throughout
Spring '99: Release of Revised Draft Env. Impact Report/Statement
with formal 60 day comment period, 6 formal public hearings
Fall '99: Release Final Environmental Impact Report/Statement
By 12/31/99: Certify EIR/S and sign Record of Decision
Tell VP Gore and Governor-elect Davis "No Dam Deal"
||Let Vice President Gore and Governor-elect Davis know we want
the CalFed plan to employ environmentally-benign and human-scale solutions
before building more dams on California Rivers.|
Call 1-877-8NO-DAMS to send a telegram
to Vice President Gore.
Please send a letter of your own
to Governor-elect Davis (and Vice President Gore too, if you prefer that
to a pre-written telegram):
The Honorable Gray Davis
Governor-elect Transition Team, 980 9th Street Suite 1800, Sacramento,
The Honorable Al Gore, Executive Office of the Vice President, White House, 1600 Pennsylvania Ave NW, Washington, DC 20500 or email vice.presidentwhitehouse.gov.
For more info, contact: Environmental Water Caucus, 85 Second Street, second floor, San Francisco, CA 94105; fax: (415) 977-5702; phone: (415) 977-5728; email: jenna.olsensierraclub.org.
The Environmental Water Caucus focuses
on improving the CalFed Bay/Delta program, a joint state/federal planning
process to address problems associated with the San Francisco Bay/Delta.