California Water Legislation Coming Soon
California Water Legislation Coming Soon

Sen. Feinstein releases draft of drought bill

Yesterday afternoon, Senator Dianne Feinstein released a draft of her bill, known as the Emergency Drought Relief Act. The bill aims at supplying Californians with both short-term and long-term solutions to deal with the California drought.

“This bill will not satisfy every water interest in the state, but we have tried mightily to listen and absorb commentary from interested parties,” Feinstein explained. “We have worked hard with state and federal technical staff and believe these provisions will place California on a long-term path to improve its water infrastructure and provide short-term improvements to water-system operations so we can store more water at the times of peak outflow during the period of the governor’s emergency drought declaration.”

Short-term provisions include:

  • Water agencies’ increased pumping abilities during stormy winter months. The agencies would be required to “payback” the excess water they pumped if there was an environmental impact, like harm to fish.
  • A 1:1 transfer ratio, meaning the same amount of water can be pumped out as required to move downstream. In previous years, environmental regulations required more water to be moved downstream. The 1:1 ratio allows water transfers to occur for water users who are in need of water.
  • Extending the amount of time a water transfer can take place. The new window would be extended from April through November; currently, transfers may only be completed July through September.
  • Requiring the Secretary of the Interior and the Secretary of Commerce to keep the Delta Cross-Channel Gates open as long as possible to control the salinity in the Delta. Doing this will avoid unnecessarily releasing water.

Long-term provisions include:

  • Assisting drought-stricken communities by increasing WaterSMART funding by $150 million. Funding can be used to provide rural and disadvantaged communities – whose wells have dried up – with bottled water.
  • Authorizing $600 million for water storage projects throughout the west. The money can be utilized for government projects and private ventures.
  • Reauthorizes the Desalination Act and authorizes $100 million for feasibility studies and studies to improve reverse osmosis and membrane technology. The Secretary of the Interior would be required to consider funding 27 desalination projects that have been identified.
  • Authorizes $200 million for the Bureau of Reclamation’s recycling program. Requires the Secretary of the Interior to consider 125 additional water-recycling projects.

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