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CA Latino Legislative Caucus Endorsment

STOCKTON, CA- Today, January 26,2012 the Latino Legislative Caucus announced their candidate for the 13th assmembly district.
According to the organization the,

The Latino Legislative Caucus comprises twenty-seven members: nine Senators and eighteen Assembly Members. It is one of the most influential organizations within the State Legislature.”

“I’m honored to have the endorsement of the California Latino Legislative Caucus,” said Eggman. “I look forward to working with Caucus members as a member of the State Assembly to improve the lives of working families in my district and throughout the state.”

The redrawn 13th District is 40 percent Latino and contains the City of Stockton, the City of Tracy, and other areas of San Joaquin County along the Delta.

Eggman will be running for assembly with 3 other candidates so far. The filling deadline is still open until March 8,2012.

Financial Aid Workshop Sunday

STOCKTON, CA –  Sunday, January 29, 2012 the Hispanic Chamber of Commerce partners with community organizations to bring its 9th annual Bilingual Student Financial Aid and College Workshop to the Alex G. Spanos Center at the University of the Pacific beginning at 8:30 AM.

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Water Conservation, Recycling and California’s Future

A billboard from West Basin Municipal Water District

Conservation is the largest, least expensive and most environmentally sound source of new water, and water is being wasted in every sector of California’s economy, according to the Pacific Institute of Oakland. “We’ve found that California can cut its urban water use by a third through efficient technology, simple changes in policy and improved public education,” said Dr. Peter H. Gleick, President of the Pacific Institute. “What this means is that we can avoid new, expensive and environmentally destructive water projects and still meet California’s future needs—even if California’s population and economy grow as expected.”

There appears to be much room for improvement.

Lawn in Southern California

Outdoor water use accounts for 42 percent of urban use in California; this includes lawns, large landscapes, parks, golf courses and cemeteries, and a portion of commercial and industrial water use. But regional use varies significantly.

In Los Angeles, outdoor use accounts for 70 percent of residential use. In June 2009, an ordinance limiting lawn and garden watering to two days a week went into effect, and Los Angeles water consumption dropped by more than 20 percent.

In that same year, the state legislature passed Senate Bill X7-7, which requires urban water suppliers to reduce use by 20 percent per person by 2020.

Already, some water suppliers, particularly West Basin Municipal Water District (West Basin) in Los Angeles, are close to meeting the requirement. “In the early 1990s, we were relying on imported water from the Metropolitan Water District and then we had a drought, and that’s when we built our water recycling facility,” said Gus Meza, West Basin Senior Water Use Efficiency Specialist. “Now, 65 percent of our water comes from the Met Water District, and our goal is to get down to 33 percent. We hope to do that by doubling conservation, doubling recycling and using desalination.” Several cities have already met the 20 percent goal, including El Segundo, Inglewood, Lomita and Manhattan Beach.

Redesigned Drought-Tolerant Landscape - Courtesy of Eastern Municipal Water District

More recently, a coalition of Southern California water agencies, including Chino Basin Water Conservation District, Inland Empire Utilities Agency and Western Municipal Water District, worked with Home Depot to encourage water-efficient landscaping. Water suppliers inserted 630,000 notices into monthly water bills, inviting customers to save up to 50 percent on water efficient plants and supplies. For 10 Saturdays in 2011, parking lot sales took place. Sales at two stores jumped 150 and 200 percent, and seven other stores had sales increases of 50 to 100 percent. This creates a win-win situation for consumers, retailers and water agencies promoting conservation.

For urban and suburban users, conservation doesn’t actually cost money over time; it creates a net savings.

Residents can also receive reimbursements directly from water agencies for replacing their lawns, at $1 per square-foot. Eastern Municipal Water District has put $100,000 into a turf buy-back program. “One of the interesting things about that program is that we are also targeting Home Owner Associations (HOAs) in these areas,” said Peter Odencrans, senior public affairs officer for Eastern Municipal Water District. HOAs constitute one-third of residential housing in California. “We have applications for 20,000 square feet, and we still have 80,000 square feet available.”  The program runs to June 2012.

Deby and John Anderson and their drought-resistant landscaping - Courtesy of Eastern Municipal Water District

But there can be resistance to change. Deby Anderson, a Hemet Resident, overcame HOA restrictions and recently replaced her lawn with drought resistant plants. “Our front yard has a huge hill, and we could never get it to look good. We had to fight our HOA, but eventually, they agreed,” Anderson said. “Every time I’m out in the garden, someone stops to comment on how beautiful the yard is which then gives me the opportunity to tell them how our water bill is less than half of what it used to be and that they, too, can get approval now to do something water-wise.”

Paula Albrigo gardening in her re-designed drought-resistant front yard.

State law backs drought-resistant landscaping, as well. In 2009, the state legislature passed A.B. 1061, and now HOA rules that interfere with water-efficient landscaping are void and unenforceable. A homeowner also cannot be fined by an HOA for putting in water efficient plants and replacing lawns.

But some HOAs are embracing change, like Casa Murietta in Sun City, California, which is currently replacing 10,000 square feet of lawn with drought-resistant landscaping and working with the local water agency. “We have a lot of green space, which uses a lot of water,” said Jeff Thomas, Casa Murietta homeowner. “There are 130 homes here. Right now everyone has their own green space, but water shortages are an issue that we’re going to have to face, sooner or later. Sooner is better, and when they’re providing incentives like this, it’s the right direction.”

Paula Albrigo, a resident from Laverne, has cut her water use in half by switching to drought-tolerant and native plants. “At first, when we let the grass die, we threw the neighbors into a tizzy. They wanted to know, did someone die? Are you leaving?” Albrigo said. “But now they love it, and we don’t pay for yard maintenance anymore.”

Water recycling is yet another way to increase water supply.

Edward C. Little Water Recycling Plant in El Segundo

Many water agencies and districts are treating sewer water and reusing it for irrigation, industrial processing and groundwater recharge.

After reprocessing waste water with microfiltration, chemicals, ultraviolet light and reverse osmosis, purified water is piped to customers who are hooked up to specific pipes for specific types of water. Chevron, for example, uses “designer” recycled water in its refinery and boiler operations.

California has more than 250 water recycling plants currently operating, and in 2009, the state recycled  approximately 724,000 acre-feet of waste water.

An additional 1.85 to 2.25 million acre-feet  of wastewater could be recycled by 2030. That’s nearly the average annual flow of the Merced and Tuolumne Rivers.

Purified Water and Noelle Collins, West Basin Media and Public Affairs Specialist

Purified Water and Noelle Collins, West Basin Media and Public Affairs Specialist

One of the largest recycling facilities in the U.S. is West Basin’s plant in El Segundo. West Basin serves nearly a million people in Los Angeles, and its recycling facility produces five different qualities of water for municipal, commercial and industrial customers.

Some of its recycled water is also used to recharge ground water, which eventually ends up in the drinking water supply. “The recycled water comes from reprocessed sewage, and it has to be put in separate purple pipes, but after processing, it is more pure than bottled water. You can drink it,” said Noelle Collins, West Basin Media and Public Affairs Specialist.

Desalination is another technology being experimented with by West Basin and several other water agencies in California, but currently, its costs, energy expense and potential effect on the environment make it less useful than recycling and effective conservation.

That said, there are still major gaps in California’s conservation policies.

The lawn around the Capitol building in Sacramento

Urban water metering is required by state law by 2025, but the City of Sacramento has installed only 27,600 of the required 110,000 meters since the city began its program in 2005. The city of Fresno and more than half San Joaquin Valley residents are also not metered. The flat water rate for some Fresno customers is $28 per month, regardless of use, and the city has some of the highest water consumption per household. But by 2013, all city of Fresno customers will be metered. The city of Stockton’s water is metered.

But California can’t ignore the largest water consumer—Agriculture, which uses 70 to 80 percent of the available supply.

Senate Bill X7-7 bill requires urban users to reduce use by 20 percent per person by 2020, and agricultural water suppliers to measure the volume of water delivered to customers and adopt a pricing structure based on the quantity delivered.

“We will never adequately manage what we don’t measure. There are challenges to measuring use, but it’s critical,” said Dr. Gleick. “We, at the Pacific Institute, have determined that there is enormous potential to be more efficient, but knowing how much potential requires knowing exactly how much water is being used.”

Thus far, reporting of agricultural water deliveries is set to begin July 31, 2012. No goal has been set for reduced use.

The next Delta article in this series will investigate the costs, conflicts and challenges associated with agricultural conservation and water measurement.

The Peripheral Canal – How much water? At what cost? Who pays?

The Sacramento River near downtown Sacramento

Nearly two-thirds of California residents and the majority of agriculture get their water from the Delta and its tributaries, which surround Stockton in an intricate pattern of levees, rivers and farms. But the Delta faces multifaceted environmental problems, which have led to a crisis for fisheries, wildlife and water quality.

The peripheral canal has been touted as the solution to the Delta’s problems, but it’s questionable whether it can provide reliable water and protect the ecosystem.

The Bay-Delta Conservation Plan (BDCP) has spent more than $150 million planning for some form of peripheral canal or tunnel-conveyance system, which would route water around the Delta rather than restoring it. The BDCP is funded by 23 South-of-Delta contractors who receive water from state and federal projects.

According to a Legislative Analyst Office report, $240 million is allocated for the BDCP planning process through the year 2013, and all total, the peripheral canal is currently estimated to cost $12 billion or higher; its actual costs are unknown.

Sign on the West Side of the Central Valley

And the BDCP draft plan has critical missing components, according to a National Academy of Sciences Report, including clearly defined goals and a scientific analysis of the proposed project’s potential impacts on Delta species—and that’s a big piece of the puzzle. Technically, the BDCP is supposed to meet the state’s co-equal goals of ecosystem restoration and water reliability.

The Delta is home to 750 species of plants and animals; 33 of which are endangered, and likely to go extinct within the next 25 to 50 years, if not sooner, said Dr. Peter Moyle, Associate Director of the UC Davis Center for Watershed Sciences. “Many of these are salmon and trout species, and most of the species are found only in California.”

While the Delta’s decline is due to many factors, including pollution, invasive species and loss of wetlands, the primary reasons for species decline are water diversions and excessive pumping in the estuary.

The San Joaquin River

The San Joaquin and Sacramento Rivers are the Delta’s primary tributaries; the San Joaquin River has often run dry due to diversions, and the Sacramento River, which once flowed out to sea, is often used to convey water to federal and state pumps, which send the water uphill and south to farms and cities in Southern California. The reduction in freshwater flow has eliminated much of the habitat, and as a result, populations of flow-dependent species have collapsed, including Chinook salmon, steelhead and Delta smelt.

To address this, the state passed the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta Reform Act in 2009, which required the State Water Resources Control Board (SWRCB) to develop flow criteria to protect public trust resources and a suite of native fish.

The SWRCB public trust recommendations indicate the need to reduce use by 13.7 to 14.6 million acre-feet annually, which is about 22 percent of the state’s annual average water supply, or almost half of the Delta water supply.

That’s roughly equivalent to the annual flow of six Sierra Nevada Rivers, including the Tuolumne, Merced, Stanislaus, Feather, Yuba and American. While the SWRCB must balance economic needs with ecosystem needs, those flow recommendations imply that all Delta water users, including state and federal water contractors, will have to significantly reduce use. As such, a coalition of water and power districts recently sent a letter to the SWRCB requesting a delay in further establishing the Delta flow criteria until the BDCP is further along.

Thus far, the BDCP has not taken the public trust flow recommendations into account, it has no plans for a cost-benefit analysis, and the cost per acre-foot of peripheral canal water is unknown. BDCP representatives did not respond to phone calls or email requests for information.

The California Aqueduct sends water south and uphill towards cities and farms. It was renamed the Edmund G. Brown California Aqueduct in December 1982.

According to Dave Paulson, Chief of the State Water Project’s (SWP) Cost Branch, there are several factors that make determining costs of conveyance difficult. First, conveyance costs vary annually based on the costs of power, operation, maintenance and new construction. Second, contractors are billed only for their share of the annual costs, and it’s difficult to project the impact of a potential BDCP program layered on these existing costs. Third, the total projected BDCP costs are undetermined, the repayment period is not defined, the share of transportation and conservation costs are unknown, and no preferred alternative has been presented.

However, the Metropolitan Water District (MWD) of Southern California, which supplies drinking water to nearly 19 million people, has made estimates of its own.

According to MWD, water from the proposed conveyance system will cost the district $810 per-acre foot, on average. MWD pays, on average, $296 per acre-foot for Delta water, which implies that the project will increase costs without necessarily yielding a more reliable supply. By comparison, MWD conservation programs yield additional water for $118 per acre-foot.

“From a Southern California perspective, we don’t want more imported water,” said Conner Everts, Executive Director of Southern California Watershed Alliance. “We’re over-built, and we’re better off when we are forced to live within our means.”

State contractors on average pay $185 per acre-foot of water, and San Joaquin Valley contractors pay about $52 an acre-foot under the current contract, which expires in 2035.

The Capitol Building

The BDCP is also linked to the Delta Plan, which is supposed to establish a more reliable water supply while protecting the Delta ecosystem, as well. The difference? The 88-year Delta plan will contain legally enforceable regulatory policies. It sets deadlines for the completion of the BDCP and Delta flow objectives. To be included in the plan, the BDCP must meet certain requirements, including flow requirements and approval from the Department of Fish and Game.

The Delta Plan is in the fifth draft of seven, and thus far, more than 200 environmental organizations have criticized it for failing to take the doctrine of public trust into account.

“It’s nebulous. It’s vague. It doesn’t include a cost-benefit analysis, and it doesn’t deal with flow issues and public trust recommendations,” said Barbara Barrigan-Parrilla, Campaign Director for Restore the Delta. “They set themselves up as a super regulatory agency, the way it’s written, but it’s a plan without a plan. There are 12 recommended actions, 61 potential actions.”

The public can comment on the Delta Plan’s 2200-page environmental impact report until February 2, 2012. The sixth draft will be published in March.

In regards to the BDCP, Assemblywoman Alyson Huber (D-El Dorado Hills) and Senator Lois Wolk (D-Davis) are attempting to bring fiscal accountability to the BDCP process. This January, Huber re-introduced Assembly Bill 550, to prohibit the construction of a peripheral canal without a full fiscal analysis and a vote of the state legislature. The bill failed on a 5-7 vote, with seven votes needed for passage. “We have made great progress from last year, and I am still committed to pressing for a full fiscal analysis and a vote of the legislature before any Delta water conveyance program can move forward,” Huber said.

Wolk also recently issued a statement on the Delta. “I accept the Governor’s invitation to engage constructively to find a solution to restore the Delta and improve water supply reliability for the state. However, I don’t think it will require what the Governor described as an enormous project, a giant canal, and taking 100,000 acres of Delta farmland out of production,” she said. “But it will require supporting everyone’s effort to reduce reliance on the Delta as their primary source of water and relying more on sustainable regional water supplies.”

Budget Shortfall Sign at Tule Elk State Natural Reserve

Gov. Jerry Brown, in his 2012 state of the state address, expressed his support for the BDCP, but more recently indicated that he would support delaying the $11 billion water bond currently on the November ballot, saying an overhaul of the state’s water system can begin without voters approving borrowing this year.

Brown advocated the peripheral canal in his last term as governor, but it was defeated in a referendum in 1982. Notably, his father, former Gov. Edmund G. Pat Brown, helped develop the State Water Project, when he served from 1959 to 1967.

Despite Brown’s enthusiasm, the state’s budget woes present a formidable roadblock. The general bonds that fund large infrastructure projects are financed by state taxpayers who pay the interest and principal out of the General Fund. According to the state’s fiscal outlook, the General Fund cost for debt service on infrastructure bonds is currently $6 billion for 2010-11 and $7.2 billion for 2011-12, and will continue to rise until 2015. Funds from bonds provided 78 percent of the financing for the construction of the State Water Project.

Wonder what happened to water conservation? See the next article in this series: Water Conservation, Recycling and California’s Future.

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