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State Senate Water Committee chair calls for new approaches to California water supply

Posted: February 11, 2014 3:29 p.m.
Updated: February 11, 2014 3:29 p.m.

SACRAMENTO – Senator Fran Pavley (D-Agoura Hills), chair of the Senate Natural Resources and Water Committee, outlined priorities Tuesday for responding to drought conditions and creating more reliable water supplies in California.

These priorities should be reflected in the water bonds under consideration in the Legislature, and in other legislation and administrative actions, she said.

Senator Pavley said the state should consider measures that automatically take effect when a drought is declared to facilitate a more coordinated statewide response.

“We need a cohesive plan around the state that recognizes the problem,” Pavley said at a committee hearing. “It’s a shared responsibility no matter where you live, whether you are an urban user or an agricultural user.”

Measures could include mandatory conservation, compensation for farmers to fallow land, restrictions on the use of potable water for hydraulic fracturing (“fracking”), coordinated publicity campaigns for conservation, increased groundwater management, and incentives for residents to conserve water. Senator Pavley noted that her hometown

Las Virgenes Municipal Water District is offering rebates for customers who remove lawns, install rain barrels or take other actions to conserve water.

Pavley also called for the state to create more reliable, sustainable supplies through strategies such as capturing and re-using stormwater and dry weather runoff, increasing the use of recycled water and cleaning up polluted groundwater basins.

In addition, the state should explore the possibility of removing silt from reservoirs and preventing silt buildup, she said. Researchers estimate that silt has reduced about 120 reservoirs in California to less than a quarter of their original capacity and almost 190 reservoirs to less than half of their capacity. The diminished capacity adds up to an estimated 1.7 million acre feet, enough water for about 3.4 million families.

“Lost or diminished capacity is a real problem and a real concern and should be on the top of our agenda,” Pavley said.

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