California boosting water supplies with new storage, desalination and conservation projects

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California Construction News staff writer

new progress report on California’s Water Supply Strategy details key actions taken by state agencies this year to expand and expedite water storage, recycling, desalination and conservation to bolster water supplies throughout the state.

Highlights from the one-year Water Supply Strategy progress report:

An estimated 3.8 million acre-feet of groundwater recharge capacity was approved this winter and spring through the State Water Resources Control Board’s temporary, streamlined permitting processes directed under the governor’s executive orders. Also 12 recharge permits were processed for more than 1.2 million acre-feet in storage.

Advancing Proposition 1 storage projects:

  • This June, the Water Commission approved $277 million for the Harvest Water Project, the first project to receive a final funding award under Proposition 1.
  • Legislation was signed to accelerate judicial review for water storage projects without reducing the environmental and government transparency benefits of CEQA.

Rehabilitating dams:

  • The 2023-24 state budget includes $100 million for grants to assist dam owners in making repairs that will improve public safety and regain storage capacity. They also enable DWR to expedite the funding awards by administering the grant program with guidelines rather than regulations.

The San Luis Reservoir expansion project continues with design expected to begin late this year. The federal government has committed $85 million to the project to date and an addendum to the project’s prior feasibility report was recently completed.

Stabilizing groundwater supplies:

  • DWR awarded $340 million in assistance to 51 local groundwater sustainability agencies in 2022 and 2023 for planning and projects, and continues to assist local agencies with data and guidance.
  • The LandFlex Program awarded $17 million to several San Joaquin Valley groundwater sustainability agencies this July, which will be distributed to local growers to transition to sustainable groundwater use and protect drinking water supplies.
  • The Multibenefit Land Repurposing Program this June awarded $35 million to increase regional capacity to repurpose agricultural land, reducing reliance on groundwater. The program last year awarded $40 million for locally-led land repurposing plans.
  • The past two state budgets authorized $120 million for a grant program at the California Department of Food and Agriculture (CDFA) to improve agricultural irrigation efficiency, and $15 million for CDFA’s Water Efficiency Technical Assistance grant program.

Also, the State Water Board convened an interagency group of state and federal agencies to develop a draft report on seawater desalination siting and streamlining, which will help guide the location of future projects and propose ways to streamline permitting.

Click the link to view the October 2023 progress report on implementation of the state’s Water Resilience Portfolio.

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