Bordered by the majestic Pacific Ocean, hosting some of the nation’s most iconic rivers, and boasting the snowpacks of the magnificent Sierra Nevada mountain range, California is truly a state where water is king. Over the past several decades, it has become increasingly clear that current water management practices in the state are no longer sufficient or conducive to providing a reliable and resilient water supply for Californians - threatening local communities, crashing critical ecosystems, and undermining our economic security. A new, more holistic approach to water is needed and PCL/F is proud to be at the leading edge championing such an approach.
Our Water Program focuses on developing and implementing sustainable and equitable water policies that enable California to meet water needs for our growing population, our economy, and our environment. We advocate for regional water self-sufficiency and a 4R approach that prioritizes water conservation and efficiency (Reduce), rainwater harvesting and graywater use (Reuse), wastewater reclamation (Recycle) and ecosystem restoration (Restore) over large-scale water transfers and storage projects.
In order to achieve our objectives, PCL/F: 1) engages in statewide water planning policies; 2) advocates in the legislative arena; 3) supports innovative local projects; and 4) undertakes research and community outreach. Below are summaries of these PCL/F Water Program efforts to reform water policy in California.
Strengthen Statewide Water Planning
The state has a number of major planning efforts underway, including the California Department of Water Resources’ (DWR) State Water Plan Update 2013 that will help guide water planning throughout the state over the next 5-10 years. The State Water Plan has significant potential to influence policy makers and water managers, but has historically been only a great source of water information rather than a vision for the future. As part of the Advisory Committee for Update 2013, PCLF is working to ensure that the Water Plan Update sets a clear vision for California’s water planning, including goals of establishing supplies that are affordable, protect environmental and public health, foster regional self-sufficiency, and prioritize a ‘reduce, reuse, recycle’ approach to water management.
Advance Positive Solutions for the Bay-Delta
The Sacramento-San Joaquin Bay-Delta region has been at the heart of many water conflicts for decades. A triad of intertwined planning processes will have extensive impacts on the Delta ecosystem: the Delta Stewardship Council’s Delta Plan, the Bay Delta Conservation Plan (BDCP), and the State Water Resources Control Board’s Water Quality Control Plan. In their current forms, these planning efforts focus on adopting 20th century solutions to solve 21st century problems; in particular, BDCP will likely be environmentally devastating and unfeasibly expensive. PCL/F is utilizing our own expertise and the coalition of allies we have worked with over the past nine years to develop more sustainable long-term management strategies for the Delta. We are also working on a positive consensus-based approach to promote near-term actions that can help protect and restore the Delta, through our participation and leadership in the Coalition to Support Delta Projects.
PCL is actively engaged in the legislative arena to promote policies that pursue regional self-sufficiency and a ‘reduce, reuse, recycle, restore’ (4R) approach to water management in California. We recognize the interdependence of water supply and quality in our advocacy work, as well as the need for strong environmental protection and the equitable distribution of safe, clean, affordable drinking water. We are also working with the Legislature to prioritize State investments in these sustainable solutions to water, rather than environmentally and economically damaging strategies like desalination, dams, water transfers, and large-scale storage projects.
Supporting Local Projects
San Clemente Dam Removal Project
Ninety-two years after the San Clemente Dam was built – and nearly a decade after PCLF helped initiate an effort to get it removed – ground was broken to take this 106-foot-high structure down in summer 2013. The dam is currently a significant barrier to the natural migration of steelhead trout to upstream spawning areas. The $83 million dam removal project will help restore the Carmel River, will safeguard downstream communities along California’s central coast that are currently at risk if the dam fails, and will help create needed jobs in the region. PCLF has helped build support for the project and shepherd it through its many permits and agency approvals for almost ten years.
Research & Outreach
PCL has stepped back from all the rhetoric in recent water wars to think about what common sense approaches can actually improve conditions. In 8 Affordable Water Solutions for California, we outline 8 common-sense approaches that can help solve California’s water problems without breaking the bank. These practical proposals will go a long way to giving residents, businesses, farmers and the environment a secure water future, and will generate good new jobs that we can afford.
With so much happening on water in California, PCL/F’s 2014 Environmental Symposium, which will take place Saturday, February 1 at UC Davis, will focus exclusively on water and the myriad questions surrounding our state’s most threatened natural resource.
For more information on any of these efforts, please contact Rebecca Crebbin-Coates.