With the drought on nearly every mind throughout the state, Turlock Irrigation District and the Association of California Water Agencies engaged in a discussion on Tuesday that encompassed everything from sustainable groundwater basins to the future of water throughout the state.
ACWA executive director Tim Quinn attended TID’s Board of Directors meeting in order to facilitate a discussion with directors, TID staff, and the public regarding the best way to approach the drought that has plagued the state for four years.
ACWA is the largest statewide coalition of public water agencies throughout the nation. Its 430 public agency members altogether are responsible for 90 percent of the water delivered to cities, farms and businesses in California.
“Other than the government, ACWA is the only statewide player in California water politics,” said Quinn.
Quinn touched on ACWA’s Statewide Water Action Plan, which details water storage, water transfers and integrated regional water management, as well as the importance of working with the Brown administration to ensure statewide water actions are consistent with the S.W.A.P.
“ACWA by nature advocates for comprehensive water policies in California,” said Quinn. “We carry the flame for comprehensive statewide policies and that’s reflected in our statewide water action plan, which I believe TID took a support position on.”
Quinn emphasized the importance of using less water — especially in cities, storing more water, fixing the Delta water system, managing groundwater, protecting drinking water particularly for disadvantaged communities and investing in habitats.
“My organization is particularly interested in the management of upper watersheds these days,” noted Quinn.
Quinn also discussed ACWA’s support of the Sustainable Groundwater Management Act of 2014, which is regarded as a highly controversial piece of legislation since its passage could have a number of consequences for family farmers, ranchers and other landowners.
Under the SGMA, local groundwater sustainability agencies that assess conditions in their local water basins must be formed and locally-based management plans must be adopted in order to achieve groundwater sustainability by 2040.
“I know our role in groundwater is controversial, but I believe in my heart that we’re doing the right thing and I’m going to defend it,” said Quinn. “I think the best angle to approach statewide policy is from sustainable groundwater basins.”
Director Michael Frantz and Assistant General Manager of Water Resources Tou Her voiced their concerns regarding the State Water Resource Control Board’s recent decision to curtail water use for the State’s Pre-1914 water rights holders, more commonly referred to as senior water rights holders.
“It is certainly a significant threat to anybody that has senior rights,” said Her.
“The possibility of a change in the senior water rights system if the drought continues concerns us because we like where we are in the hierarchy of water rights,” added Frantz.
In response, Quinn revealed that he believed that senior water rights should be protected no matter what and that he believes that the ACWA Board of Directors will take a strong stand to defend the existing structural water rights.
“I was just as surprised as anybody to see that the State Board decided to cut pre-1914 water rights,” said Quinn. “I didn’t think that they had jurisdiction. We need to defend our water rights.”