Weekly Report – July 13, 2015

The L.A. Coalition’s Subcommittee on Water

Water has always been a defining factor in the development of California and the western part of the United States. 

The absence of water caused by droughts has also played a significant role. 

Throughout California’s history, droughts have encouraged the implementation of water related projects and initiatives that have successfully produced long-term benefits throughout the state.

Drought in the 1930s created the Central Valley Project. Drought in the 1950s led to the State Water Project. Drought in the 1970s spurred efforts at urban conservation and the state’s Drought Emergency Water Bank came out of a drought in the 1980s. 

California’s current drought will once again test the state’s ability to transform ideas into solutions.

Thanks to the leadership efforts of Marc Nathanson, the chair of the L.A. Coalition’s subcommittee on water, the L.A. Coalition has formed a partnership with the Pisces Foundation and its co-founder Bob Fisher (Chairman of the Board, Gap Inc.) and the CA Water Foundation, to help advance sound initiatives that will further the development of a sustainable and reliable water management supply system for decades to come. 

Marc and Bob recently hosted a meeting with 35 high level business and civic leaders and water experts to discuss the future of California’s water supply and the advancement of a sustained campaign to advocate for much needed solutions. 

Below is a California Water Policy Brief that was developed from this discussion and please let me know if you would like to join our efforts on any one of these subject areas. Also, please feel free to offer any feedback you may have.

California Water Policy Brief

California’s ongoing drought has highlighted the need to develop a comprehensive and diversified strategy to develop the state’s water supply for years to come.

Governor Brown’s proposed California Water Action Plan – http://goo.gl/Bcm7jP – is one critical step that requires immediate attention, but more needs to be done.

The L.A. Coalition and the California Water Foundation will collaborate to advance the following initiatives:

A Sustainable Los Angeles 

The news is good that L.A.’s residents are the most efficient for per capita water consumption among U.S. urban areas with populations of more than one million residents. Though commendable, L.A.’s three decade long effort to develop local water supplies and reduce consumption will not be enough to meet the future needs of the region. We see real value in supporting the investments and policies that are being implemented by the Metropolitan Water District and suggested by Mayor Garcetti’s sustainability plan – http://goo.gl/cJsDpo. The ultimate success of both plans will require greater cooperation among local governments, involve securing local and state funding, and require smart investments in wastewater recycling, stormwater capture, and conservation projects throughout the region.

Reliable Financing 

A 2012 infrastructure report by the American Society of Civil Engineers estimated that California’s current funding shortfalls in critical water infrastructure areas equal nearly $12 billion annually. The Los Angeles Department of Water & Power must replace 435 miles of their deteriorating pipe in the next 10 years at a cost of $1.3-billion. Relying on bond funding alone is not sufficient to address these needs and only accumulates more debt. California should establish a Drought Preparedness Fund that provides revenue to invest in regional infrastructure to prepare the state for inevitable extremes that future weather patterns will produce.  Policies that enable local agencies to collect the revenue they need to maintain a reliable and modern water system are also needed. These policies must ensuring public transparency and accountability.

Fixing the Delta

Northern California’s Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta remains a significant pathway for water supplying two out of three Californians and 4 million acres of the state’s farmland. It is also the West Coast’s largest estuary and home to miles of fiber optic cables, as well as oil and gas pipelines. A catastrophic event in the Delta would cause decades of massive economic dislocation and environmental damage. We see real value in supporting Governor Brown’s plan (“California WaterFix”) to improve and modernize our aging and vulnerable water distribution system and enhance ecosystem restoration. Building a new water conveyance system (pipeline), rather than relying on fragile dirt levees, will protect our water supplies from earthquakes, floods and other natural disasters, and enable us to move and store water more efficiently and with less environmental impact. Restoring Delta ecosystems and providing new conveyance will significantly improve water supply reliability and environmental conditions. With that in mind, we do agree that we cannot engineer our way out of this drought and California’s communities must continue to concurrently make investments in developing and managing their local supplies – we must pair imported supplies with increased local supplies.

Functional Water Market

California needs a functional water market to spur innovation, move water efficiently to the highest value uses, all while protecting important public values. Markets and trading, particularly between agriculture, cities, and the environment, were a critical adaptation strategy for Australia when it was in the midst of its decade-long drought. The most obvious barrier to establishing effective markets is lack of sufficient and transparent information about how much water is available and how, where, and when it is being used. California status as the world’s leader in data management should translate into a strategy that protects the state’s most precious resource.


All Californians need to work together to secure California’s long-term water supply reliability, restore damaged ecosystems, and improve the state’s drought preparedness and resilience. There is no silver bullet solution to our current drought or our long-term water challenges, but swift and deliberate action in support of common sense solutions will help us avoid the drought’s worst impacts and put us on a path toward a sustainable future.