Executive Summary for September 16th

In this weekly roundup, we analyze key developments in the California drought, including a new plan for San Joaquin River flows. We also look at growing interest in data innovation and economic analysis of the tunnels plan.

Published on Sep. 16, 2016 Read time Approx. 2 minutes

San Joaquin River Update Released

The highly anticipated draft proposal to update salinity levels and water flows in the San Joaquin River and its tributaries that drain the southern part of the Bay Delta was released on Thursday.

The State Water Resources Control Board’s plan advises an increase in flows to better protect fish and raises salinity requirements slightly, according to the water board. Along with the proposed plan is an accompanying Substitute Environmental Document that looks at the benefits, cost and impacts of the plan.

Public comments are due on November 15, 2016. A public hearing will be held on November 2 and November 10, 2016, in Sacramento, and November 4, 2016, in the Modesto area. You can find a fact sheet on the proposed plan here.

Federal Help Needed on Tunnels Project?

On Wednesday, the Associated Press reported on the findings of an economic study on the $16 billion tunnels project. The study was commissioned last year by the state’s Natural Resources Agency, but not publicly released.

According to the article, the study, completed by economist David Sunding of the University of California, Berkeley, was discovered during a public records request by Restore the Delta, a group that opposes the tunnels project.

“Giant tunnels that Gov. Jerry Brown wants to build to haul water across California are economically feasible only if the federal government bears a third of the nearly $16 billion cost because local water districts may not benefit as expected, according to an analysis that the state commissioned last year but never released,” the AP reported. “The findings run counter to longstanding state pledges that the districts that would get water from the tunnels would pay the full cost.”

The group Californians for Water Security, which is in favor of the tunnels project, released a statement, which said that the study was “a year-old, draft analysis that is incomplete and doesn’t account for the latest thinking on the financing of this project.”

Innovating Around Water Data

Policy wonks and techies rejoice: The second annual California Water Policy Challenge, held by Imagine H2O, a water innovation accelerator, was announced this week to help drive innovations in water data.

“California’s success in renewable energy is largely a result of policy innovation,” said Buzz Thompson, professor of Stanford Law School and director of the Woods Institute for the Environment who will also be judging the challenge. “It’s time California gave water the same attention it has given energy. IH2O’s program allows us to identify practical, intelligent policy approaches that can get water data solutions deployed in California.”

If that wasn’t motivation enough, there is also $40,000 at stake, as well as mentorship from experts in the field. You can also see information about the winners of the 2016 challenge here.

Water and data is a hot topic in California these days. The announcement came just days after the Water Data Summit was held at Stanford, convened by the California Data Collaborative, which is a coalition of water utilities that have embarked on a project using data to help advance water management.

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