Drought: Problems Arise When Water Supply Goes Down

Best Best & Krieger LLP

We’ve all heard the good news by now: Californians have slashed water usage by 31 percent — way beyond Gov. Jerry Brown’s order for a 25 percent reduction.

Unfortunately, drought-related bad news continues to flow in reports about the consequences of both water shortages and water conservation. Municipalities and water suppliers are continually faced with new and unexpected problems to solve that will have huge impacts on the state’s infrastructure, operations and environment.

The Los Angeles Times reported this week that several cities around the state are contending with sewer systems that are not getting flushed out properly, that there is less water available for recycling and that tree roots searching for water are infiltrating sewer pipes. In addition, water suppliers are feeling the pinch, as less water sold translates to less revenue — which in turn is creating rate hikes for customers.

Meanwhile, the San Francisco Chronicle reported on the debate between above- and below- ground water storage. While no one disagrees that California is in need of new storage, there is plenty of disagreement over how that should be done. Dams seem to be the most popular (and expensive) solution, the newspaper said.

Some of these issues are likely to be addressed with the $7.1 billion Water Quality, Supply, and Infrastructure Improvement Act (Proposition 1) passed by voters last year. (Draft Guidelines for Planning Grants were just released by the Department of Water Resources.) But the Sacramento Bee said this week that state lawmakers are already contemplating another water bond, possibly for the November 2016 ballot.

DISCLAIMER: Because of the generality of this update, the information provided herein may not be applicable in all situations and should not be acted upon without specific legal advice based on particular situations.

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