February 26, 2014
Dr. Peter Gleick, president of the Pacific Institute and one of the world’s leading experts on freshwater issues, testified on February 26, 2014 on strategies for addressing the California drought to the California State Water Resources Control Board (SWRCB). Recognizing that the drought is having far-reaching effects that are likely to intensify if dry conditions persist, Gleick offered key recommendations from the Pacific Institute for changes in strategy, policy, and approach to greatly expand the efficiency of urban water use in California.
“The magnitude of the current drought has brought California’s water use and management issues into sharper focus,” said Gleick, a member of the U.S. National Academy of Sciences who has worked on California water issues for over thirty years. “The drought will have serious consequences for California communities, but it also offers opportunities to address long-standing and unresolved water management issues.”
Gleick offered recommendations from the Pacific Institute to the SWRCB on urban water use and efficiency to help the state deal with the current drought – and with the reality of a drier water future for California with climate change. His recommendations include:
-Establish expanded and accelerated water efficiency targets. While recent legislation has set some targets, preliminary analysis suggests that the state is not on track to meet its 20% reduction by 2020, and these standards should be strengthened.
-Implement comprehensive and standardized urban water pricing. All water utilities should adopt tiered pricing for residential customers and consider adopting tiered pricing for other customer classes.
-Accelerate urban water metering. Recent legislation has set requirements for complete residential metering by 2025, but the requirement of 100% urban metering should be accelerated.
-Accelerate appliance/water use technology replacement; update water-efficiency standards. Urban agencies should accelerate the replacement of inefficient clothes washers, toilets, showerheads, and dishwashers, and outdoors, should offer programs to remove lawns and install efficient water systems for landscaping irrigation.
-Adopt a loading order for water that can serve as a guidepost for policies and decisions at local, regional, and state levels. The state should identify efficiency as the preferred approach to improving water supply reliability, followed by alternatives resources (e.g., recycled water, groundwater cleanup, and conjunctive use), and lastly by traditional water supply options.
-Increase water-efficiency expenditures. The state and water utilities should increase investment in water efficiency and conservation programs; budgets for water-efficiency programs are generally small compared to other utility expenditures and may vary from year to year.
-Collect more and better water-use data. To help improve program design and support local and statewide water resource planning efforts, more and better data are needed on how much water is used, by whom, and to do what.
Gleick offered other policy recommendations, as well, including requiring all new loans, grants, and permits to be issued only to agencies that include full water-use reporting and meet baseline efficiency targets, and requiring stormwater retention and treatment for all new development. The State should also conduct a detailed assessment of the quality of water required to meet end uses and the quality of waters available, with a requirement to rapidly expand the use of recycled/treated wastewater, eventually eliminating the discharge of treated wastewater into the ocean.
The Pacific Institute has been at the forefront of research and solution-finding for water issues in the West for 26 years. The Institute’s 2003 report Waste Not, Want Not put real numbers on the potential for improving water efficiency in residential, commercial, and industrial settings, and California Water 2030 described in detail a “high efficiency” scenario that will cut wasteful water use by 20 percent without harming the economy or quality of life in California. Much of the work of the Institute on efficiency has been adopted by the Department of Water Resources in their long-term California Water Plan.
The Pacific Institute is one of the world’s leading independent nonprofit research organizations working to create a healthier planet and sustainable communities. Based in Oakland, Calif., the Institute conducts interdisciplinary research and partners with stakeholders to produce solutions that advance environmental protection, economic development, and social equity – in California, nationally, and internationally. www.pacinst.org
Download the testimony.