California SWRCB Modifies Order for Operation of the State Water Project and Central Valley Project

On April 6, 2015, the California State Water Resources Control Board (SWRCB) issued an order modifying its earlier orders from February 3 and March 5 concerning operations of the State Water Project (SWP) and Central Valley Project (CVP) in the Sacramento-San Joaquin River Delta (Delta). Those orders were the result of a petition by the California Department of Water Resources and U.S. Bureau of Reclamation for a temporary, urgency change to SWP and CVP withdrawals of water in the southern Delta in response to the current drought. The SWRCB’s action applies to joint project operations between March 25 and June 30, 2015. Later operational changes will be addressed by future SWRCB action.

The primary changes to SWP and CVP operations in the latest order are: increasing authorized diversions, by reducing minimum daily Delta outflow requirements at Collinsville from 7,100 cfs to 4,000 cfs; allowing the gates at the Delta Cross Channel to remain open under certain circumstances; reducing the minimum San Joaquin River outflows at Vernalis from 710-1,140 cfs (depending on hydrologic conditions) to 500 cfs; and changing the timing of Vernalis pulse flows from April 15-May 15 to March 25-April 25. The SWRCB denied a request to increase the maximum export rate from the southern Delta, due to concerns that releases from New Melones Reservoir would not leave sufficient water in storage to protect fish and wildlife on the Stanislaus River.

The SWRCB concluded that the authorized changes in SWP and CVP operations strike a reasonable balance between fish and wildlife protection and best serving other needs for water diversions for municipal and agricultural purposes. It is clear heading into the 2015 dry season that the projects will be under extreme stress, as will all water users relying on the Sacramento and San Joaquin Rivers.

Dark Clouds Over California: The Sustainable Groundwater Management Act of 2014

I am excited to release a new white paper regarding the California Sustainable Groundwater Management Act of 2014, entitled Dark Clouds Over California. Please download the white paper and share with your colleagues. For your convenience, the executive summary is published below. Additionally, the Act is spread across three legislative bills, some of which modify each other, making them difficult to read. A compiled version of the Act is available here. Other provisions of the three bills that are not contained within the main body of the Act may be found here.

New CPUC Resolution on Urban Water Conservation

Yesterday the California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC) adopted Resolution W-5000, which requires all investor-owned water utilities in the state to provide notice to their customers of the mandatory water conservation measures adopted by the State Water Resources Control Board (SWRCB) in its emergency regulations that became effective on July 28, 2014. The CPUC had required all Class A and B water utilities within its jurisdiction to activate Tariff Rule 14.1 calling for voluntary reductions in water use on February 28, 2014, in Resolution W-4976. Resolution W-5000 imposes further requirements.

The California Water Market 2014

There has been no shortage of news articles on the California drought this year. Many have helped inform the public about critical issues related to the conservation and development of water resources in the state, and about changes or potential changes in the laws and regulations concerning urban water use and groundwater. There have also been a number that focus on the existence of and increased activity in a market for water rights and supplies, including this article from today in Bloomberg.

The California Water Action Plan of 2014

On January 27, 2014, Governor Brown released a California Water Action Plan (CWAP) to address the ongoing drought and long-term challenges such as environmental protection, population growth and climate change. While the document was released several months ago, the implementation actions are only now starting to be clarified, especially regarding groundwater. This post reviews that document and evaluates the various actions identified in the CWAP from the perspective of a legal practitioner.

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