Wednesday, October 28, 2009

California’s Watershed Water Use Initiative

This week’s blog post topic, exploring the implications of California’s latest land use and resource conservation legislation on development and redevelopment in the state, was submitted by California-based EDD member Jerry A. King. EDD’s newest blogger, Alison Bates, a graduate student at the State University of New York-Albany, provides her take on the issue.

California is not going to wait until it is in the midst of a significant drought to begin drafting policies to address the dwindling supply of water in the American west. California has been diligently working on measures to combat sprawl and incentivize redevelopment through land use initiatives such as SB 375, and more recently, the state has crafted Assembly Bill No. 49, which would require Californians to decrease their water consumption by 20% by 2020. “In just over a decade, it proposes to reduce California's urban water use — residential, commercial and industrial — from an average 192 gallons per person per day to 154 gallons. That would be an annual savings of about 1.7 million acre-feet, equivalent to more than a two-year supply for Los Angeles. (The national urban per-capita use is 101 gallons per day, reflecting the higher average rainfall in many states.)". AB 49 calls for the establishment of an incentivizing pricing structure for agricultural suppliers to ensure that those meeting the newly defined conservation demands are financially rewarded. Addition mandates include a standardized reporting structure, and regular data collection on water use. Also, AB 49 mandates planning of water resources. Chapter 3, Article 1. 10820 (b) states that “every supplier that becomes an agricultural water supplier after December 1, 2012, shall prepare and adopt an agricultural water management plan within one year after the date it has become an agricultural water supplier”. This initiative, which calls for collective public and private participation to mitigate water usage, is the first such legislation in the nation. Decreasing access to water is a reality that many U.S states face, and the debate over whether residents in one region are entitled to the water of another region is likely to become an increasingly contentious issue. States that sit poised to face this challenge in the coming years are well advised to look to California’s forward thinking legislation that mandates water use reporting, and planning. Additional measures to promote smart water use could incentivize water suppliers to supply redevelopment projects rather than to supply sprawling new development. By making sprawl more expensive, we conserve our limited resources, which we must collectively now realize, includes water.

Alison Bates

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