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Executive Summary for December 9th

In this weekly roundup, we analyze key water developments in California including the possibly of new federal legislation for California water. We also look at the potential of a solar desal plant and Prop 1 funds for stormwater.

Published on Dec. 9, 2016 Read time Approx. 2 minutes

Drought Bill for California

Yesterday the U.S. House of Representatives voted 360 to 61 to pass the Water Infrastructure Improvements for the Nation Act that includes 91 pages of provisions that would affect California.

“The House on Thursday overwhelmingly approved the biggest federal reset of California water use in a generation, setting the stage for easier dam-building, more recycling and potentially happier Central Valley farmers,” Michael Doyle reported for McClatchy.

Although U.S. Sen. Dianne Feinstein helped negotiate the California provisions, the state’s other Democratic senator, Barbara Boxer, is against it.

“Boxer is vehemently opposed to the added language, called a rider, which she says is an end-run around the Endangered Species Act and its protections for salmon and the nearly extinct delta smelt,” the Los Angeles Time reported.

Boxer, who is retiring at the end of the session, had authored the bill, but now may filibuster it. “What’s so ironic for me is it’s my legacy bill that has a horrible rider on it. It’s a miserable feeling because I love the bill and I hate the rider,” she told the Los Angeles Times.

Solar Desal

The company SolRio is making a play for the site of the shuttered nuclear power station at San Onofre, on the California coast 60 miles north of San Diego, to build a large-scale solar-powered desalination plant.

The company says the project, called SunRiver, would produce 1.1 billion gallons (4.2bn liters) a day – the same amount that Metropolitan Water District imports from the Colorado River – thereby lowering pressure on imported surface water.

“The proposed SunRiver Project uses the existing seawater inlet and discharge pipes and high-power grid connection at the decommissioned San Onofre Nuclear Generating Station,” the company said in a statement about the project. “Power to operate the SolRio Project will be generated by a combination of solar panels and grid storage batteries. The combined area of these solar plants is 39 square miles (100 sq km), and 12 GWh of storage are used.”

Water would then be delivered via a 35-mile (63km) pipeline to Diamond Valley Lake, a reservoir used by Metropolitan Water District.

Stormwater Grants

On Monday the State Water Resources Control Board announced more than $100 million in grants to help 27 California municipalities make better use of stormwater.

The funds come from money allocated via the Proposition 1 Water Bond passed in 2014.

“We are delighted to help some of California’s most innovative communities address their critical water supply needs and protect water quality at the same time,” said State Water Board Chair Felicia Marcus. “Necessity being the mother of invention, these communities have seen that the stormwater running down the gutter is a waste of a potential resource and are coming up with creative ways to capture it and put it to good use. Using stormwater to recharge our depleted groundwater aquifers or replace precious drinking water to irrigate our green spaces are examples of how we can tackle water scarcity and increase resiliency to climate change. We will learn a lot from these projects, which will benefit communities throughout California.”

A list of funded projects can be found here.

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