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Napolitano to Hold Hearing on Alternative Water Supplies for California Witnesses to Focus on Immediate Water Supply Solutions

January 28, 2008
Press Release

WASHINGTON, DC – The House Natural Resources Subcommittee on Water and Power, Chaired by Congresswoman Grace F. Napolitano (D-Norwalk), will hold a hearing on January 29, 2008 in Washington, DC on the federal and state role in addressing the uncertainty of California water supplies.

Panelists will include Bob Johnson, Commissioner, Bureau of Reclamation; Lester Snow, Director, California Department of Water Resources; Jeff Kightlinger, General Manager, Metropolitan Water District of Southern California; Rick Frank, Member, Blue Ribbon Task Force, Delta Vision; Wally Bishop, General Manager, Contra Costa Water District; farmer Jean Sagouspe of Los Banos, CA; Larry Starrh, Starrh & Starrh Cotton Growers; Dan Nelson, Executive Director, San Luis and Delta-Mendota Water Authority; Jose Ramirez, City Manager, City of Firebaugh; and Rich Atwater, CEO and General Manager, Inland Empire Utilities Agency.

In the face of a multi-year drought, continued population growth, and the impacts of climate change, the state’s water situation was further destabilized by a federal judge’s recent ruling that could severely cut water exports from the Bay-Delta estuary, which supplies much of the state’s water. Farming communities in the Central Valley of California and at least 18 million people in Southern California will receive a significant reduction in water.

While the decision has spurred much debate over the long-term future of the Bay Delta as a water supply, Tuesday’s hearing will focus on what can be done now to decrease the region’s dependency on the Delta. Witnesses will explore the potential impacts of the court order and how agencies will adapt to these impacts and possible impacts. Supervisors from various regional water districts are expected to testify on their experiences with conservation programs, water smart technologies, water recycling, desalination projects, groundwater storage and other alternative supply programs.

For example, Metropolitan Water District has reported that their conservation efforts have reduced regional water demands by about 15 percent. In 2007 alone, conservation reportedly provided almost 800,000 acre-feet (AF) of water – more water than the service area received from the Colorado River. (One acre foot typically meets the water needs of two Southern California families). This savings has been the result, in part, of simple solutions like low-flow shower heads and low-flush toilets.

The court decision will guide Bay Delta water exports through September, when the Fish and Wildlife Service is required to issue a new Biological Opinion regarding the effects of water pumping on the threatened delta smelt. Therefore, the Bureau of Reclamation and the California Department of Water Resources will also testify on how their management of through-delta operations will be carried out through September and what steps they are taking to ensure that Federal Judges will not be determining the future of California’s water supply. 

The hearing will be held at 10:00 a.m. in Room 1334 of the Longworth House Office Building and will be webcast live at https://resourcescommittee.house.gov.

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