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Executive Summary for April 7th

In this weekly roundup, we analyze key water developments in California, including good news for a desert groundwater withdrawal project. We also look at new emergency storm funds and conservation numbers.

Published on April 7, 2017 Read time Approx. 3 minutes

Trump Gives Boost to Desert Groundwater Withdrawal Project

A controversial project to pump 50,000 acre-feet of groundwater a year for 50 years from a desert aquifer and sell it to Southern California water agencies received a boost from a recent decision by the Interior Department.

Cadiz Inc.’s project to mine groundwater from a desert aquifer is contingent on a 43-mile pipeline that the company planned to have run alongside a railroad line. But a ruling from the Bureau of Land Management under the Obama Administration found that Cadiz would need right-of-way authorization from the BLM for its pipeline, Ian James of the Desert Sun reported.

But now Trump’s Interior Department “announced last week that the Bureau of Land Management is scrapping guidelines that detail how federal officials are supposed to evaluate the uses of public lands running alongside railroads,” James wrote, which helps clear the way for Cadiz’s pipeline and groundwater project.

California senator Dianne Feinstein is opposed to the project. “The detrimental impact this project would have on the California desert is irreversible,” she wrote in a statement. “Rather than allow a proper environmental review, the Trump administration wants to open the door for a private company to exploit a natural desert aquifer and destroy pristine public land purely for profit. The Cadiz water project embodies the worst elements of the Trump administration.”

Financial Help on the Way for Oroville

The Trump administration has approved $540 million for California to recover from February storms, including $274 million for the damaged Oroville spillway.

This is the fourth appeal for funds granted this year to storm-battered California, despite the fact that some feared the Trump administration might penalize California, as the state’s governor has publicly disagreed with the new administration.

“Even as [California governor Jerry] Brown met to discuss storm damage and transportation and infrastructure projects, he didn’t refrain from criticizing the Republican-led effort to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act and Trump’s proposed wall along the U.S.-Mexico border. Yet for all the trepidation, Trump has come through on the storm-damage requests each time the Brown administration has asked him,” the Sacramento Bee reported.

Conservation Continues in California

As storms walloped California in February, residents continued to conserve water, with conservation numbers just released by the State Water Resources Control Board showing that urban water use fell 25.1 percent in February from 2013 levels.

“Even with a banner year for winter precipitation, Californians have continued to practice sensible conservation, with a significant drop in water use in the South Coast,” said State Water Board Chair Felicia Marcus.

The wet weather has reduced the need for outdoor watering in many places, likely helping to boost conservation. But state officials continue to work on long-term strategies for reducing water use in California and planning for a climate with greater swings between wet and dry.

“Though our water picture is significantly improved in most of California, we have to maintain our drought memory and shift to planning and action to prepare for the long term,” said Marcus. “From transitioning to California-friendly landscapes and smart irrigation systems, to reducing leaks and increasing use of recycled water and other measures – we need to keep in motion to face a future with longer and more severe droughts under climate change.”

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