Tipping Points: How 2016 Will Shape California’s Water Future

January 29, 2016 | 11:55 am
Juliet Christian-Smith
Western States Regional Director

Today, draft regulations were posted for public comment that will determine how billions of dollars from the water bond (Proposition 1) will be given out to fund new water infrastructure projects.

The requirements for vetting these projects should include using the best available climate science, but right now, they don’t.

In fact, the regulations state that climate change impacts will not even be considered after 2050, which models indicate is about the time that those impacts could become much more severe. These regulations are now open for public comment and it’s important for experts, concerned citizens, and taxpayers alike to ensure that public money is spent wisely – and that the infrastructure that we build today will be able to deliver tomorrow.

This blog is the first in a series called “Tipping Points” that will profile key water planning decisions that will be made this year that will determine California’s water management and infrastructure for decades to come.

A tipping point is the critical point in a situation or system beyond which a significant and often unstoppable effect or change takes place. The Union of Concerned Scientists is working to shine a light on forthcoming water policy decisions that will have large public impacts. We want to help scientists and the public get involved in the critical deliberations that will chart the course for California’s water future. You can automatically receive tipping points blogs that will keep you up-to-date on what’s happening, when, and how you can be involved.

Four reasons why 2016 is a tipping point

A couple days ago, we held a webinar that presented a few reasons why 2016 is a pivotal year for water:

  • The governor’s commitment to improving water management. Earlier this month, Governor Brown released his California Water Action Plan 2016 Update. The Brown administration describes the Water Action Plan as a roadmap to put California on a path to sustainable water management and updated it at the beginning of the Governor’s second term, indicating continued commitment to its implementation.
  • The impact of climate change. After four years of exceptional drought, we are entering into what is projected to be an exceptionally wet year. Climate change impacts are being felt in real-time, as we experience greater extremes. And groundwater is key to ensuring water security in California’s changing climate.
  • The regulation of groundwater. After a century of treating groundwater like an unlimited resource, the consequences of massive groundwater depletion are being seen across the state: from land sinking in the Central Valley, to valuable coastal aquifers becoming saline due to seawater intrusion. A new law requires more sustainable groundwater management, and this year, state water regulators are writing critical regulations that will set the bar for what sustainability means in practice.
  • The $7.5 billion water bond. After years of political wrangling, we finally have new financial resources to update California’s water system to make it more resilient and reliable. This year, state water regulators are writing the rules that govern how a large chunk of the money will be spent.

It’s going to be a busy year – are you ready to tip the scales in the favor of science and democracy? We are, and we’d love to partner with you.

Sign up here to get updates about the big water decisions coming this year.