News Briefs: California Water Agencies Reduce Conservation Targets

In this week’s news briefs, only 16 percent of California’s water agencies are committing to continued water conservation now that state-mandated restrictions have been lifted, and a Wisconsin city’s plan to tap into Lake Michigan is met with some pushback.
News Briefs: California Water Agencies Reduce Conservation Targets

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Despite drought conditions that persist in California, 84 percent of the water agencies in the state have a conservation target of zero for the remainder of the year.

The figures were released last week, two months after Gov. Jerry Brown dropped mandatory water restrictions due to pressure from water agencies that were losing millions of dollars from lost water sales. Out of 411 agencies, 343 have given themselves a goal of zero for water conservation for the rest of 2016. Among them are some of the biggest water agencies in the state, including the cities of San Francisco, San Diego and Sacramento, the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power, the East Bay Municipal Utility District, the Contra Costa Water District and the Marin Municipal Water District.

However, the State Water Resources Control Board noted that it required each agency to pass a “stress test” demonstrating it had enough water through either reservoirs, groundwater storage, or contracts with other agencies to get by should the drought continue for another three years. Agencies choosing a goal of zero shows that agencies are prepared, the board says.

But others are saying that the decision to drop the mandatory restrictions was shortsighted.

“In the midst of the hottest summer on record and while we fight off raging wildfires throughout the state, allowing virtually every water supplier in the state to abandon mandatory conservation is a terrible message to send to Californians,” said Tracy Quinn, a water policy analyst with the Natural Resources Defense Council, in a report by The Mercury News.

Felicia Marcus, chair of the State Water Resources Control Board, said water figures would be monitored closely and mandatory restrictions could return in January if need be.

Dave Bolland, special projects manager with the Association of California Water Agencies, added that many agencies that reported a zero figure are still trying to get customers to meet voluntary targets. They’re just no longer prone to enforcement actions by the state if they don’t meet those targets.

“We have been trying to frame the story as ‘Zero doesn’t mean zero,’” he says.

Source: The Mercury News

Waukesa, Wisconsin, is Granted Access to Lake Michigan for Drinking Water
The Great Lakes account for 18 percent of the world’s freshwater, and about 40 million people use them as the source of their drinking water. That number will soon become a little higher with the city of Waukesha, Wisconsin, recently gaining access to Lake Michigan drinking water, but the decision has been controversial.

“How many more of these will happen? You worry about the death by a thousand cuts,” said Ezra Meyer of Clean Wisconsin in a report by Fox 11.

Since 2008, the Great Lakes Compact has strictly governed which communities can use the lakes for drinking water. Access is mostly limited to municipalities within the Great Lakes basin, the area where surface water runoff makes its way to the lakes. Waukesha lies outside the basin, although part of the county it’s in is within the boundaries. The application process began a decade ago, prompted by a court order to find a new drinking water source due to radium contamination in Waukesha’s groundwater.

“They made us do a very thorough, scientific, fact-based job in providing and submitting our application,” says Waukesha Mayor Shawn Reilly. “They’ve made a statement that the city of Waukesha as well as any other community that comes through asking for water is going to have to meet a very high bar.”

But there are opponents who don’t believe Waukesha’s application met the terms of the compact and say this decision sets a dangerous precedent.

“We don’t know what’s going to happen. All I know is there’s a whole litany of cities along the Great Lakes that want to stick a straw in,” says Racine Mayor John Dickert.

Source: Fox 11

Survey Says People Want Private Sector Involved in Water Infrastructure
According to a national survey, many people believe the private sector should play a big role in rebuilding the United States’ water infrastructure.

EMC Research, on behalf of the National Association of Water Companies (NAWC) and Truth from the Tap, collected 1,003 surveys using an opt-in method online with respondents 18 and older. More respondents favored solutions that involved the private sector (i.e. 60 percent agreed with the establishment of public-private partnerships) than government-only solutions (40 percent supported raising water rates as a fix to infrastructure problems).

“The survey reinforces what we are seeing in cities and towns across the country — Americans want private water to be part of the water infrastructure solution,” says Michael Deane, NAWC’s executive director. “They recognize that these companies offer experienced professionals with extensive knowledge to help communities address water challenges.”

Source: press release


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