Last week, Bella Vista Water District learned along with other Central Valley Project (CVP) Water Service contractors that includes many farmers and cities on how much water they could expect from the Federal CVP—one of the state’s two big infrastructure projects that delivers water to communities, farms, wetlands and wildlife refuges in the Central Valley.
Although the news is great for north of delta contractors like Bella Vista Water District, the delayed CVP allocation announcement that south of delta contractors are currently projected to receive only 65% for agricultural use and 90% for all other (municipal and industrial) uses, and is a reason for many people concerned about the ability of California’s water system to provide for the future.
“If there was ever a year for a full, 100% allocation, this is it!” said Bella Vista Water District General Manager, David Coxey. “The 65% delayed allocation adds insult to injury and is a good indication of just how mired California’s water system is with regulatory constraints. Keep in mind, this years’ 65% allocation follows south of delta Ag allocations of 0%-2014, 0%-2015, 5%-2016. Many don’t realize the CVP is integrated operationally and financially and when a large portion of the project is unserved or underserved as has occurred for the last several years, it shifts the costs to the remaining contractors,”
Coxey explains that the accounting, cost allocation methodology and rate setting for the CVP is involved and complex. “In simple terms, when a large portion of the project receives no supply or a reduced supply, the reimbursable costs are spread over a reduced quantity and the unit cost for water increases. Additionally, construction (capital) repayment costs are shifted to those that receive water.”
State Water Board Emergency Conservation Regulation
On February 8, 2017, the State Water Resources Control Board adopted an emergency conservation regulation to amend and extend the previously adopted emergency regulation that results in a 33% conservation mandate for Bella Vista Water District.
The State Board will hopefully revisit the emergency regulation in May and change their focus to water use efficiency, rather than continuing to impose such an enormous burden on water agencies and their customers that have endured severe water supply reductions during the drought years. On aggregate, throughout the duration of the drought, Bella Vista Water District customers continuously achieved conservation levels that exceeded the 33% reduction as compared to 2013.
Bay-Delta Water Quality Control Plan Update
Of great concern to the BVWD is the State Board’s Bay-Delta Water Quality Control Plan Update process that is presently underway. The current Phase 1 staff proposal would require 40% “unimpaired flow” from key San Joaquin River tributaries from February through June. Coxey says that the proposal is problematic for several reasons in that it fails to balance all beneficial uses of water as required by state law, ignores economic impacts, is not connected with or even achieve specific habitat outcomes, was not developed in a collaborative manner, is inconsistent with the coequal goals of improving water supply reliability and the environment, ignores non-flow solutions that contribute demonstrated benefits. Phase 2 of the Bay-Delta Water Quality Control Plan is focused on the Sacramento Valley and the State Board may act on a final proposal in 2017. “We must pursue constructive regulatory solutions, increase water storage capabilities and utilize functional flows to maximize in-stream and environmental benefits to achieve desirable and sustainable outcomes,” said Coxey.