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CA Proposes Over $5B for Water Infrastructure

Tuesday, May 25, 2021

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In the wake of an ongoing and expanding state-wide drought, California Gov. Gavin Newsom has proposed a $5.1 billion investment, slated to take over four years, for immediate drought response and long-term water investments.

The proposal arrives after Newsom issued a proclamation of a state of emergency on April 21, directing state agencies to take immediate action to bolster drought resilience and prepare for impacts on communities, businesses and ecosystems. At the time, the emergency was announced to exist in Mendocino and Sonoma counties due to severe drought conditions in the Russian River Watershed.

Since then, however, the drought emergency has been expended to 39 other counties, including Klamath River, Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta and Tulare Lake Watershed. Although not in a state of emergency at this time, Newsom has also announced that 41 of California’s 58 total counties to be in drought.

“Shoring up our water resilience, especially in small and disadvantaged communities, is imperative to safeguarding the future of our state in the face of devastating climate change impacts that are intensifying drought conditions and threatening our communities, the economy and the environment,” Newsom said in a press release.

“This package of bold investments will equip the state with the tools we need to tackle the drought emergency head-on while addressing long-standing water challenges and helping to secure vital and limited water supplies to sustain our state into the future.”

Infrastructure Proposal

Spanning from Newsom’s $100 billion California Comeback Plan, the governor has recently proposed a $5.1 billion investment plan for to aid the state in both preparation and response time regarding drought infrastructure to ensure a more climate resilient system.

Of the allotted funding, the plan also includes $1 billion to help residents pay overdue water bills. Other slated investments to support safe drinking water, water supply and reliability and flood resilience include:

  • $1.3 billion for drinking water/wastewater, especially for small and disadvantages communities;
  • $150 million for groundwater cleanup and water recycling to improve climate resilience;
  • $300 million for SGMA implementation to improve water supply security, water quality, and water reliability;
  • $200 million for water conveyance to address subsidence and rising cost of moving water through the Friant-Kern Canal, the Delta-Mendota Canal, the California Aqueduct, and the San Luis Canal;
  • $220 million for Salton Sea to maximize habitat outcomes and provide immediate economic relief to the community;
  • $140 million for flood to reduce flood risk for 1.1 million people and over $100 billion of assets;
  • $200 million for Oroville Pump Storage to increase clean electricity generation to improve grid reliability; and
  • $60 million for State Water Efficiency and Enhancemen (SWEEP) in grants to help farmers reduce irrigation water use and reduce greenhouse gas emissions from agriculture pumping.

For immediate drought support, the plan has slated:

  • $91 million for critical data collection to improve forecasting;
  • $27 million for emergency and permanent solutions to drinking water drought emergencies;
  • $500 million for multi-benefit land repurposing to support growers;
  • $300 million for drought relief and urban water management grants for approximately 2,400 small community water systems that serve schools and all of California’s 58 counties as they plan for drought and potential water shortages; and
  • $33 million for fisheries and wildlife to protect and conserve California’s diverse ecosystems.

The plan also allots $266 million for water resilience projects to improve ecosystem health for native fish in the Sacramento and San Joaquin rivers and their tributaries; $230 million for ecosystems to improve passage for wildlife or fish; and $200 million for habitat restoration and multi-benefit projects including tidal wetland, floodplain, and flood-risk reduction projects to restore fish and wildlife habitat.

In regard to why the drought has become so severe, various reports have indicated a variety of reasons, most notably that the Sierra is producing less inflow into the reservoirs as snowpack has melted into the ground and that many of the major reservoirs are only half as full as they would normally be this time of year.

According to Natural Resources Secretary Wade Crowfoot, the state has already lost 500,000 acre-feet of water over the last few weeks, which is enough to supply as many as 1 million homes for a year.

Despite concerns, Newsom has yet to order mandatory cutbacks in water consumption, noting that residents in the state have already reduced consumption by 16% since the last drought, but still urges all to take additional voluntary steps, like keeping showers to five minutes, fixing leaks and switching to drought-tolerant landscaping.

Elected officials have reportedly applauded Newsom’s plans for improving the state’s water infrastructure. “We can stop the boom-and-bust cycle of drought and no water, and a wet year,” said state Sen. Anna Caballero (D), whose district includes parts of Merced County.

The Association of California Water Agencies was also noted to be in favor, stating, “From droughts, floods, catastrophic wildfires and sea-level rise, water managers are faced with growing challenges exasperated by climate change. For these reasons, ACWA supports state funding for immediate drought relief and longer-term projects that will increase California’s water resilience.”


Tagged categories: Environmental Controls; Funding; Government; Grants; Health and safety; Infrastructure; NA; North America; potable water; Program/Project Management; Stormwater; Water/Wastewater

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