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Draft California Water Action Plan is short on action

October 31, 2013|By Bettina Boxall
  • A 2009 photo of Millerton Lake behind Friant Dam near Fresno. A draft water plan for California cites a need for more water storage.
A 2009 photo of Millerton Lake behind Friant Dam near Fresno. A draft water… (Tomas Ovalle / For The Times…)

State officials Thursday released the draft of a new California Water Action Plan that doesn’t include much action.

The 17-page document covers little new ground, outlining familiar water policy goals with few details of how they will be achieved.

"We are not reinventing the wheel here," said state Natural Resources Secretary John Laird. "We are coordinating what's in place in one location with clear goals as targets for the different agencies.... We have to focus on the whole picture."

Among the goals:

• Make water conservation a "way of life" in California.
• Develop local supplies such as recycled water to make regions more self-reliant and reduce their need for imported water.
• Expand the state's water storage, whether in the form of new reservoirs or groundwater reserves.
• Improve flood protection and provide safe drinking water for all communities.
• Restore important ecosystems.

The document states that Gov. Jerry's Brown administration "will propose measures to streamline permitting" for local projects such as storm-water capture and seawater desalination. But Laird said the mechanism for that had yet to be determined.

Another section says the administration will direct state agencies to "identify areas where user and/or polluter fees may be appropriate" to help finance water projects.

Although the draft calls for more water conservation by agriculture – which uses most of the state's developed supplies – the plan proposes no standards for reducing irrigation use.

The document notes that "much of California’s groundwater is not sustainably managed," but it contains no proposals for regulating use.

"We’re not talking about mandates," Laird said. "We’re really laying this on the table."

Twitter: @boxall

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