Water becomes key issue in California’s development planning

Fears of an impending state water crisis on the scale of the current energy crisis in California, has led to the introduction of a raft of new legislation requiring water resource management to become an integral part of planning new developments.


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For any development project in California, with more than 500 housing units, developers must now have written verification from the local water agency to prove there is enough water available to supply the proposed development for the next 20 years, even through long periods of drought.

The quality of water supplies to urban areas has also come under the microscope with an amendment to the Urban Water Management Planning Act, requiring water agencies to include water quality data in their urban water management plans. Pressure is also on to prepare and adopt the plans “on a timely basis”. In addition, water supply assessments will now be required for all projects subject to the California Environmental Quality Act. The new controls follow an earlier measure introduced on September 20th, which codified the Department of Water Resources process for developing the California Water Plan. Urban water suppliers must now indicate how they intend to maximize resources and minimize the need to import water from other regions.

Signing off the latest legislation on 9 October, Californian Governor Gray Davis stressed that it was only the first step towards addressing the need for additional supplies and improved infrastructure. He also warned that the state’s ability to meet its water demand is likely to be further hampered by the past year’s low rainfall.

“I re-emphasize the need to aggressively pursue infrastructure projects throughout California, including immediate progress on in-Delta storage, expanded Central Valley Project storage in Lake Shasta, expanded storage in Los Vaqueros and Sites reservoirs, additional storage in the upper San Joaquin watershed, and continued investment in projects that conjunctively use surface and groundwater supplies,” he stated.

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