Water Board Adopts Bay-Delta Policy Principles

The Metropolitan Water District of Southern California announced that its board of directors adopted on April 11 a series of policy principles that emphasize the importance of actions that assure the long-term sustainability of the environment and fisheries in the San Francisco Bay/Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta and the critical role of a statewide commitment to greater water use efficiency.

A mission statement and 13 principles also stress the importance of improving the quality and long-term reliability of existing Bay-Delta supplies through facility improvements and the need to spread costs broadly across all beneficiaries of Delta-related policies, officials said.

"The recent tragic events involving hurricanes Katrina and Rita, concerns over levee stability and recent declines among some fish species have focused the public's attention on the immense stakes involved in the Bay-Delta," Metropolitan board Chairman Wes Bannister said. "It has sparked a new willingness throughout California to consider innovative approaches that will carry us through much of the 21st century.

"By forging these policies, we're asking for a new direction where regions meet growth by managing supplies wisely, while the state makes the necessary facility investments to keep California's water system reliable and the environment protected," Bannister said.

The largest estuary on the West Coast, the Bay-Delta is an important drinking water source for Metropolitan and 18 millions Southern Californians. The principles call upon California to practice greater water use efficiency and develop local supplies, while pursuing a set of policies that will provide a comprehensive, sustainable environmental restoration program in the Bay-Delta.

Metropolitan's principles call for California to consider all options for a long-term, sustainable solution in an open public debate that would consider land use practices in the Delta, investments in new storage, and alternative means of delivering Bay-Delta supplies with decisions based on sound science.

As a matter of human health and safety, another Metropolitan principle calls on the state to complete its emergency preparedness and response plans for the fragile Delta levee system that ensure the reliability of water supplies upon which most of the state depends.

Capital investments in the Bay-Delta should avoid short-term fixes that are inconsistent with what the Delta will look like 50 years in the future. Instead, the program should provide an affordable, sustainable plan where all beneficiaries contribute their fair share, coupled with support from state and federal government and water-related bonds, officials said.

Metropolitan General Manager Jeff Kightlinger said the policy principles mark a dramatic shift away from the philosophy that growing demands would be met through increased Bay-Delta exports above existing contracts.

"It reflects the strategy in our integrated resource planning efforts, under which growing demands are met through water conservation, recycling and the development of local and regional supplies, as well as water transfers with willing sellers," Kightlinger said.

Metropolitan's principles state that improvements in the Delta and California's water reliability will require cost-effective investments in water facilities in the Delta. At the same time, a number of non-water uses also depend on the estuary's health, including transportation, communications, power utilities, along with housing and industry, all of which would be expected to participate in a collaborative solution.

Metropolitan Water District of Southern California: http://www.mwdh2o.com

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