DOINews: Tackling California's Water Challenges

Last edited 09/29/2021

After three years of drought and nearly half a century of neglect, California's water infrastructure is failing to the meet the needs of Californians. Moreover, the California Bay Delta, upon which more than 22 million people and a $28 billion agricultural industry rely for their water, is in a state of environmental collapse.

For too long, the federal government has neglected of the California water crisis, but the Obama Administration has turned the page and has engaged as a full partner in helping Californians build a sustainable water future.

With its expertise in water management, science, and ecosystem restoration, the U.S. Department of the Interior is working with state and local governments, stakeholders and the public to help Californians tackle the water crisis

In 2009, DOI signed a memorandum of understanding with the Departments of Agriculture and Commerce, as well as the U.S. Army, the Environmental Protection Agency and the Council on Environmental Quality, committing to play a leadership role in ensuring a sustainable water supply and restoring the environmental integrity of the California Bay-Delta ecosystem.

On December 22, 2009, DOI released a coordinated interim action plan in conjunction with the White House Council on Environmental Quality (CEQ), the Department of Commerce, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), the Department of the Army and the Department of Agriculture.

“The California water crisis requires all hands on deck to help those who are suffering,” said Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar“We are moving aggressively to do our part to address the urgent need to provide reliable water supplies for 25 million Californians, while also protecting the Bay-Delta ecosystem upon which the supplies depend,” “Everything we do will be done in close partnership with the State of California and will build upon the path-breaking legislation recently enacted by the State.”

The coordinated federal action plan will:

  • Strengthen the federal government's coordination of actions with the state – especially its commitment to more fully engage federal agencies in the Bay Delta Conservation Plan, the most significant effort currently underway to address critical long-term water issues in California.
  • Help to meet water needs through actions that promote smarter water supply and use such as constructing projects that increase flexibility in the water supply system; enhancing water transfers; ensuring that the best science is applied to water supply decisions; and intensifying and aligning Federal water conservation efforts with those of the state.
  • Help ensure healthy ecosystems and improved water quality through independent reviews of key scientific questions, including a review of all factors that are contributing to the decline of the Bay-Delta ecosystem; investigation and mitigation of other stressors affecting water quality in the Bay-Delta and impacts to its imperiled species; advancing ecosystem restoration projects, including near-term habitat projects in the Bay-Delta; accelerating the restoration and propagation of Delta smelt and other aquatic species; continuing construction of fish screens; and addressing climate change impacts on the Bay-Delta.
  • Call for agencies to help deliver drought relief services and ensure integrated flood risk management, including the prioritization of projects and activities for flood risk management and related levee stabilization projects and navigation

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