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December 9, 2014  |  Written by Aaron A. Ferguson

Central Valley Project: Municipal and Industrial Water Shortage Policy Environmental Review Period Open

On November 19, 2014, the United States Bureau of Reclamation (Reclamation) released its Draft Environmental Impact Statement for its Central Valley Project (CVP) Municipal and Industrial Water Shortage Policy (Draft EIS).

The CVP is a federal water project in the State of California delivering approximately 7 million acre-feet per year for agricultural, municipal, and environmental uses in the Sacramento and San Joaquin Valleys and Bay Area. Each year, Reclamation determines the amount of water that can be allocated to each water contractor based on water supply availability conditions for that year. Allocations are expressed as a percentage of the contract total or historical use according to contracts between Reclamation and CVP contractors.

On September 11, 2001, Reclamation released a Draft Municipal and Industrial Water Shortage Policy (Draft M&I WSP). In 2005, Reclamation published an Environmental Assessment (EA), and then signed a Finding of No Significant Impact for its Draft M&I WSP. During water shortage conditions, Reclamation implements the Draft M&I WSP as modified by Alternative 1B from the EA. Due to regulatory conditions, and changes in the Delta and CVP operations, Reclamation has prepared the Draft EIS to evaluate the environmental impacts of an updated municipal and industrial water shortage policy (Updated M&I WSP) that best recognizes the needs of various water users, and provides an approach for addressing these needs.

The Draft EIS evaluates four action alternatives and a no-action alternative. The No-Action Alternative represents the Draft M&I WSP. Under the Draft M&I WSP, when CVP supplies are not adequate to provide water to all customers, M&I water service contractor allocations are maintained at 100 percent of the total as the agricultural water service contractors are reduced to 75 percent. M&I water service allocations are reduced below 75 percent in the event agricultural supplies drop below a certain threshold. When M&I water service contractor allocations are below 75 percent of historical use, Reclamation would attempt to meet unmet public health and safety needs if certain emergency conditions exist.

Under Alternative 2, there is no preference for either agricultural or M&I contractors, and both receive equal allocation percentages during water shortage conditions. Under Alternative 3, M&I water service contractors receive 100% of their total until CVP supplies are not available to meet those demands, and agricultural allocations are reduced as needed to maintain 100% allocations to M&I contractors. Alternative 4 is similar to Alternative 1, with modifications to the calculation of historical use. Alternative 5 is similar to Alternative 4 but attempts to meet public health and safety needs not met by Alternative 4, and increases the upper limit when water is reallocated from agricultural contractors to meet the unmet portion of M&I public health and safety demands compared to Alternative 4.

The Draft EIS shows that surface water supply impacts vary depending upon whether a contractor is located north or south of the Sacramento San Joaquin-River Delta, and by contractor type (i.e., agricultural or municipal & industrial). Under Alternative 2, agricultural contractors receive greater CVP deliveries, and M&I contractors receive lower deliveries compared to the No-Action Alternative. Under Alternative 3, agricultural contractors receive less CVP water, and M&I contractors receive more compared to the No-Action Alternative, and Alternatives 4 and 5 show no change from the No-Action Alternative.

The Draft EIS also evaluates impacts to groundwater resources, with groundwater pumping tied to anticipated pumping costs, deliveries to agricultural contractors, and amount of unmet public health and safety need for municipal and industrial contractors. The Draft EIS found that the greatest groundwater pumping would occur under Alternative 3 compared to the No-Action Alternative because of reduced deliveries to agricultural contractors.

Comments on the Draft EIS must be submitted to Reclamation by January 12, 2015. Reclamation anticipates issuing a Final EIS by May 2015 and a Record of Decision by June 2015.

Review the Draft EIS.

For more information, contact Aaron Ferguson at aferguson@somachlaw.com.

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