California Water Utilities Fail to Submit Agricultural Water Management Plans

Aug. 30, 2013
NRDC reports that 70% of water utilities in California do not submit the legally required plans

Twenty-four of California’s agricultural water districts have submitted agricultural water management plans, leaving 55 districts out of compliance with the requirement of the Water Conservation Act of 2009, according to a new joint analysis issued by the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) and the Pacific Institute. This represents a 30% compliance rate, meaning there is much work to be done to ensure sustainable water management for the state.

“California is a dry state, expected to only get drier, yet we’re also the leading agricultural state in the nation,” said Claire O’Connor, agricultural water specialist for NRDC. “It’s critical that agricultural water suppliers lead the way in planning for a drier future and encourage customers to be smarter about their water use.”

Implementation of the Agricultural Water Management Planning Act: A Review of Agricultural Water Management Plans offers recommendations for those 55 water districts to participate in and comply with future legally required planning cycles, including: 1) California’s Department of Water Resources (DWR) should offer peer-to-peer workshops to assist districts with the planning process; 2) DWR should create an online clearinghouse of plans and draft plans to facilitate public comment; and 3) DWR should hold non-compliant districts accountable, and, per the Act’s mandate, refuse to consider grant and loan requests until districts submit a plan.

“When water suppliers prepare plans, the public and other stakeholders can participate in important decisions, like how water efficiency measures should be implemented,” said Juliet Christian-Smith, senior research associate at the Pacific Institute. “Fortunately, we do have some good actors who are leading the way – they are setting the standard for other water districts to follow.”

For example, the analysis highlights exemplary plans and activities, such as:

  • Turlock Irrigation District in Stanislaus County is utilizing approximately 5,200 acre ft of recycled water every year, freeing up traditional water resources for other beneficial uses.
  • Reclamation District 108 in Colusa County is phasing in new water measurement devices to allow them to accurately measure the amount of water they deliver to their customers, as required by the Water Conservation Act.
  • Alta Irrigation District in Tulare County has been charging their customers based on the amount of water they receive for over a decade. By pricing water volumetrically, Alta is providing its customers an incentive to become more efficient.

Agricultural water district water management plans for the 24 districts can be found here

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