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Executive Summary for February 16th

In this weekly roundup, we analyze key water developments around the West, including new Delta tunnel developments, impending conservation rules and a rodent invasion.

Published on Feb. 16, 2018 Read time Approx. 2 minutes

New Twist in Tunnels Saga

Last week, the California Department of Water Resources officially announced it would seek to build a single tunnel, but now the Metropolitan Water Agency of Southern California could change that.

The Sacramento Bee reported that Metropolitan, the largest public water agency in the state, was contemplating a plan to fund a significant portion of California WaterFix. It was just a week ago that the state decided to scale back the project – a two-tunnel conveyance with a price tag of $17 billion. The new version called for building just one tunnel first for $10.7 billion, with the possibility of adding a second tunnel if more funding becomes available over the years.

The project was scaled back because not enough money could be raised from project beneficiaries.

But now the story may be changing yet again as the Sacramento Bee reports that Metropolitan’s board is running a fiscal analysis to see if they could pay for a much larger share of the project, putting in an additional $6 billion. They have already pledged to pay $4 billion.

“A bigger role for Metropolitan raises the specter of a Southern California ‘water grab’ in the Delta, where landowners, local governments and many environmental groups already view the project with deep suspicion,” the Bee reported.

New Conservation Rules Expected

Conservation is set to become a “way of life” in California, thanks partly to expected new regulations from the Water Board next week that are intended to decrease wasteful water practices.

The Water Board is expected to formally adopt the rules on February 20, with them going into effect on April 1. Among the practices that would be banned are: hosing off sidewalks and other hardscapes, washing cars without using a shutoff nozzle, using non-recirculated water in a fountain or water feature, overwatering lawns so that it causes runoff, watering within 48 hours of rain and watering grass medians.

In many areas of the state, 50 percent or more of total water use comes from outdoor watering.

Lookout for Swamp Rodents

California is now on high alert after the Department of Fish and Wildlife warned there have been numerous sightings of nutria, an invasive rodent commonly found in wetland and river habitats.

Nutria have caused significant ecosystem damage in places such as Louisiana, Chesapeake Bay and the Pacific Northwest, and in the past nine months there have been about 20 documented sightings in the San Joaquin Valley.

But where there are a few now, there are likely to be many soon. The state reports that in their lifetime mature females can have more than 200 offspring, which may travel as far as 50 miles.

“If allowed to establish, nutria will severely impact California’s resources, causing the loss of wetlands, severe soil erosion, damage to agricultural crops and levees and reduced stability of banks, dikes and roadbeds,” the Department of Fish and Wildlife reported. “Nutria also degrade water quality and contaminate drinking supplies with parasites and diseases transmissible to humans, livestock and pets.”

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