Tag Archives: water conservation

Op-Ed: Cap-and-trade funds to support creative rural solutions

Paul Dolan and Renata Brillinger, THE PRESS DEMOCRAT

Overview from the CALCAN (California Climate and Agriculture Network) website:

Climate Smart Agriculture Programs – The state of California currently has four Climate Smart Agriculture programs that provide resources for California farmers and ranchers to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and store carbon in soils and trees, while providing multiple benefits to agriculture and the environment. The programs are funded with proceeds from the state’s cap-and-trade program.

Healthy Soils Initiative – The Healthy Soils Initiative was proposed by Governor Brown in 2015 and received initial funding of $7.5 million in 2016. The Initiative provides funding for farmer and rancher incentives to increase carbon storage in soils and reduce overall greenhouse gas emissions through practices that build healthy soil such as compost application, cover crop, reduced tillage, conservation plantings and more. The program will also fund on-farm demonstration projects to provide growers, researchers and other ag professionals strategies for mitigating climate change in agriculture.

State Water Efficiency & Enhancement Program (SWEEP) – The program funds growers to improve their irrigation management practices to save water and energy and reduce related greenhouse gas emissions. Eligible project activities include pump upgrades and solar pump installation; conversion to drip or micro irrigation; improved water storage and/or recycling, soil moisture monitoring and irrigation scheduling.

Sustainable Agricultural Lands Conservation Program (SALCP) – The program funds local government projects and permanent easements on agricultural lands at risk of development to prevent sprawl.

Dairy Digester Research and Development Program (DDRDP) – The program funds dairy digesters and related research to reduce methane emissions from the dairy sector. A portion of the funding will be allocated in 2017 to a new program called the Alternative Manure Management Program (AMMP).

Gov. Jerry Brown recently signed Assembly Bill 398, which extends cap-and-trade, California’s cornerstone climate change program, through 2030. The program requires the largest emitters of greenhouse gas emissions (e.g., the oil and gas industry, cement plants, large food processors) to cut their emissions. Without putting a price on carbon, we are unlikely to meet our climate change goals, the most ambitious in the country.

The state Legislature and governor will now debate how to budget billions of dollars in cap-and-trade revenue. In the past three years, California has invested more than $3 billion of cap-and-trade funds in our communities to accelerate the transition toward a clean energy economy. In January, Governor Brown proposed an additional $2.2 billion for the 2017-18 fiscal year.

To date, the money has been invested across California on projects that reduce emissions by weatherizing homes, installing solar panels, improving public transportation, building transit-oriented housing and more. In addition to these urban strategies, the state has also embraced sustainable agricultural solutions to climate change.

Since 2014, nearly $200 million has been granted to farmers and ranchers to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and to store carbon on their land. The country’s first Climate Smart Agriculture programs are demonstrating to the world that farmers and ranchers can be leaders in climate innovation.

Read more at: Close to Home: Cap-and-trade funds need to support creative rural solutions, like those on the North Coast | The Press Democrat

Filed under Agriculture/Food System, Climate Change & Energy, Land Use, Water

Why some western water agencies are writing 100-year water plans 

Jerry Redfern, NewsDeeply

The plan calls for increased water conservation through groundwater management (including recharging the aquifer beneath Albuquerque), surface-water management (including protecting current water rights and buying more in the future), watershed restoration, water recycling and reuse programs and stormwater capture and storage.

In February of this year, the largest water district in a state with little water enacted a plan that attempts to manage that increasingly fickle resource for 100 years.

The plan, Water: 2120, is the Albuquerque Bernalillo County Water Utility Authority (ABCWUA) in New Mexico’s blueprint to direct water procurement, protection and use for the next century.

“This really came out of eight to 10 of us sitting around in a room every Wednesday morning and talking this through,” said Katherine Yuhas, water resources manager at ABCWUA and one of the lead planners on the project.

It’s common for water agencies to develop plans looking 20 to 40 years ahead, or in some cases 50 to 60 years. And ABCWUA, of course, has had planning documents in the past, the last one looking 60 years out. But “this is the first one to take into account climate change,” Yuhas said, and “it’s the first one to look out 100 years.” Plus, it covers everything from watersheds to infrastructure to household use.

Other Western water groups are also working on long-range plans. Santa Fe is looking closely at Water: 2120. Next year, Austin Water plans to unveil Water Forward, which it calls, “a water plan for the next century.”

And in Arizona, the Office of Assured and Adequate Water Supply Program at the Department of Water Resources requires new developments in certain metropolitan areas to show they have physical and legal access to water for 100 years.

Read more at: Why Some Western Water Agencies Are Writing 100-Year Water Plans — Water Deeply

Filed under Water

Sonoma County Water Agency manager named head of California Department of Water Resources

Guy Kovner, THE PRESS DEMOCRAT

Grant Davis, general manager of the Sonoma County Water Agency, was tapped Wednesday by Gov. Jerry Brown as the state’s new director for the Department of Water Resources, handing a veteran of North Bay politics and water policy a central role in Brown’s controversial bid to overhaul California’s water system with a $17 billion pair of tunnels under Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta.

Davis, 54, has led the county Water Agency since 2010 and is set to begin in his new post in Sacramento in August, pending confirmation by the state Senate. The Department of Water Resources is the lead state agency providing water for 25 million residents, farms and business.

Its most contentious proposal under Brown is the pair of massive tunnels intended to convey Sacramento River water under the Delta and deliver it to users to the south, including farmers in the San Joaquin Valley and cities in Southern California.

“The governor supports that California WaterFix and so do I,” Davis said Wednesday, using the nickname for the disputed project that pits Northern California water and environmental interests against influential agricultural and urban users south of the Delta.“

I will be a major participant in that effort,” Davis said in a telephone interview from Washington, D.C., where he was on an unrelated trip to lobby for funding to support long-range weather forecasting.

Davis would succeed former DWR Director Mark Cowin, who retired late last year along with the agency’s chief deputy director, Carl Torgersen. The appointment comes as the state continues to emerge from a historic five-year drought, with a push to fortify supplies, build new reservoirs and protect the environment — initiatives that can be in conflict.

Davis said there is “a long way to go” in addressing the state’s water demand and a need to “find a balance” between water supplies and protection of “habitat and fisheries.”

Read more at: Sonoma County Water Agency manager named head of California Department of Water Resources | The Press Democrat

Filed under Water, Wildlife

Governor Jerry Brown declares drought over in California

Dale Kasler and Christopher Cadelago, THE SACRAMENTO BEE

The drought officially ended in most of California on Friday, but state officials vowed to clamp down on wasteful water use and impose a long-term conservation program that could create friction with urban water users.

Following a deluge of wet weather that left reservoirs brimming and the Sierra snowpack bulging, Gov. Jerry Brown declared an end to a drought that brought California some of the driest periods in recorded history.

But the governor warned the state’s groundwater supplies remain perilously low in some areas, and the state will continue to forbid Californians from hosing off sidewalks, watering their lawns during or immediately after rainfalls, and other wasteful practices. Municipalities will have to keep reporting their monthly water usage. With climate change threatening to make future droughts worse, Brown and others called on Californians to remain cautious about water usage.

“The next drought could be around the corner,” Brown said in a prepared statement.

Dry weather began in earnest in early 2012. It wasn’t until January 2014, with conditions worsening, that Brown declared a state of emergency and the drought officially began. Friday’s decision rescinds that declaration, as well as most drought-related executive orders he issued when the drought reached its zenith in 2015.

Brown lifted the drought order in every county except Fresno, Kings, Tulare and Tuolumne, where the governor said emergency drinking water projects will continue to help communities where wells have gone dry. The state will also continue fighting the bark beetle outbreak that has killed millions of trees weakened by drought.

Read more at: Gov. Jerry Brown declares drought over in California | The Sacramento Bee

Filed under Sustainable Living, Water

Jackson Family Wines cuts water use by 31%, pledges more by 2021

NORTH BAY BUSINESS JOURNAL

Santa Rosa-based Jackson Family Wines, one of the world’s largest producers, said it has cut water use at its dozens of wineries and thousands of acres of vines worldwide by 31 percent and plans more big cuts in the next five years.

The maker of brands such as Kendall-Jackson, La Crema and Cambria on Sept. 7 released its first sustainability report, showing efforts since 2008 and laying out targets for 2021. It’s something that 92 percent of the world’s largest companies now publish regularly, according to Netherlands-based Global Reporting Initiative. GRI developed sustainability standards in the late 1990s now used in 90-plus countries.

“My family has long been at the forefront of responsible winegrowing with a decades-long commitment to environmental stewardship, innovation in energy and water management, and caring for our people and communities,” said Katie Jackson, vice president of sustainability and external affairs at Jackson Family Wines. “Today’s wine consumers are passionate about sustainability and support wineries that share their values, so I am truly excited to reveal the details of our progress and our ambitious five-year goals in this inaugural report.”

Jackson also has created what’s said to be the wine business’ largest portfolio of solar electricity generation — 6.5 megawatts’ worth installed at nine wineries, according to the 29-page report. And to store some of that for use when the sun’s not shining, the company put in 8.4 megawatt-hours of Tesla Powerpack stationary batteries. Jackson wants to produce enough electricity at its locations to offset half the usage in five years.

The company also installed low-water barrel and waterless tank sanitation systems by Tom Beard Co. of Santa Rosa. Tanks are cleaned via high-strength ultraviolet light. Barrels are automatically scoured with water that’s sanitized and reused up to three times, saving 700,000 gallons of water and also reducing energy needs for heating water.

The number of gallons required to make wine — called “water intensity” — plummeted 41 percent to 5.4 gallons per gallon of wine last year from 9 gallons of water in 2008. Jackson plans to cut winery water intensity by another third by 2021, or around 3.5 gallons per gallon of wine.

In the vineyards, Jackson installed sap-flow sensors by Fruition Systems to irrigate only when vines really need it, cutting irrigation water use by 25 percent.

Read more at: Jackson Family Wines cuts water use by 31%, pledges more by 2021

Filed under Agriculture/Food System, Climate Change & Energy, Sustainable Living, Water

Santa Rosa’s Old Courthouse Square project improves conditions for new trees

Kevin McCallum, THE PRESS DEMOCRAT

Later this year, workers reunifying Old Courthouse Square will plant dozens of new trees to replace the towering redwoods and others that were felled at the beginning of the project in downtown Santa Rosa.

Whether the new sycamores and crepe myrtles thrive in their urban environment will depend largely on innovative underground preparations underway this week.

Workers began installing more than 1,000 black plastic structures that future visitors to the square will never see, but will directly affect how well the trees grow.

Called Silva Cells, the rectangular blocks, which look a bit like large hollow Legos, are designed to create subterranean spaces where tree roots can grow freely and storm water can collect before flowing into nearby Santa Rosa Creek.

Trees in urban environments often fail to thrive because they are planted in heavily compacted soil that prevents them from getting the air, water and nutrients they need, said Shawn Freedberg, an account manager with the San Francisco-based DeepRoot Green Infrastructure. Instead of growing downward and outward, tree roots often grow upward, resulting in pushed up sidewalks and pavement damage, he explained.

Read more at: Santa Rosa’s Old Courthouse Square project stakes out space for new trees

Filed under Land Use, Sustainable Living

Feds ease rules on homes with PACE green-upgrade loans 

NORTH BAY BUSINESS JOURNAL

The federal government has announced new guidelines that will make it easier for the sale and financing of homes with existing property-assessed clean energy (PACE) loans, through the Federal Housing Authority (FHA) and the Veterans’ Administration (VA).

Seniority has been a sticking point for PACE loans since California enacted Assembly Bill 811 of 2008, allowing such financing, and the pioneering Sonoma County Energy Independence Program launched in March 2009.

“This guidance provides resolution on how PACE financings will be handled in the event of a property’s sale, refinance or foreclosure and upholds PACE’s senior lien position,” said Stacey Lawson, CEO and president of Ygrene Energy Fund, a Santa Rosa-based PACE financing provider. “This is confirmation for the homeowners and local governments that have realized enormous, positive benefits of PACE financing for energy and water-related improvements.”

PACE programs enable homeowners to finance up to 20 years water and energy-efficiency projects, paying for the improvements along with their property taxes.

The new guidelines say that a senior PACE lien can be secured to a property with an FHA-insured mortgage in a manner consistent with traditional special property-tax assessments. Additionally, the announcement reinforces lien transferability by stating that in the event of a sale — including a foreclosure sale — that the outstanding PACE obligation will remain with the property and the new homeowner will be responsible for the balance.

The Obama administration, in collaboration with state agencies, also announced a new goal to bring 1 gigawatt of solar — enough to power roughly 700,000 homes — to low- and moderate- income families by 2020. The Clean Energy Savings for All Americans Initiative is a joint partnership between the department of Energy, Housing and Urban Development, Agriculture, Health and Human Services and Veteran’s Affairs, and the Environmental Protection Agency.

Source: Feds ease rules on homes with PACE green-upgrade loans | The North Bay Business Journal

Filed under Climate Change & Energy

Santa Rosa water restrictions end for city residents 

Guy Kovner, THE PRESS DEMOCRAT

Santa Rosa residents are out from under local water-saving mandates imposed two years ago in the grip of a nagging drought, thanks to an abundant water supply behind Warm Springs Dam at Lake Sonoma, officials said Wednesday.

Based on assurances that the reservoir behind the taxpayer-funded, $360 million dam west of Healdsburg can sustain 600,000 Sonoma and Marin county residents for three more potentially dry years, the City Council rescinded, effective immediately, the mandatory curbs on outdoor water use adopted in August 2014.

The council’s action followed last month’s ruling by the State Water Resources Control Board that local agencies with a three-year water supply could be exempted from state water conservation targets. Santa Rosa and five other Sonoma County water providers met that requirement, the Sonoma County Water Agency said at the time.

On Wednesday, the water agency confirmed in a forecast to the state water board that Lake Sonoma would hold a healthy 178,398 acre feet of water at the end of September in 2019, after three rain-poor years comparable to 2013 through 2015.

Brad Sherwood, the water agency’s spokesman, said the report “illustrates our region’s ability to meet water supply demands” over a three-year drought.

Read more at: Santa Rosa water restrictions end for city residents | The Press Democrat

Filed under Water

Mandatory water savings may soon be over for most Sonoma County residents

Guy Kovner, THE PRESS DEMOCRAT

Santa Rosa will maintain the other aspects of its water conservation program, including rebates for water-saving devices, and will “continue to ask our customers to keep up their efficient water use behavior,” Burke said.

For most Sonoma County residents, the days of strict water savings mandates could be over by summer, a result of brimful reservoirs and a dramatic shift this week in state water conservation rules.

Santa Rosa and five other Sonoma County water providers should be excused from state-ordered water-saving standards as soon as next month under California’s updated conservation campaign, tailored for the first time to match regulations to the reality of regional water supplies, officials said Friday.

With the region’s two major reservoirs nearly full from above-average rainfall, six local agencies that serve more than 340,000 customers meet the new requirement for demonstrating a sufficient water supply over a three-year period under drought conditions.

“It’s good news,” said Brad Sherwood of the Sonoma County Water Agency, the water wholesaler that serves the local agencies. “Our Russian River water supply system is not in a drought condition.”

The water agency released calculations this week showing that the local water suppliers can balance water demand and supply over three more dry years, thereby gaining exemptions from the conservation standards imposed 10 months ago by the State Water Resources Control Board. In addition to Santa Rosa, the affected municipal systems include Petaluma, Rohnert Park, Windsor, Sonoma and Valley of the Moon Water District.

Local water suppliers that cannot meet demand will be assigned water-savings targets equal to their shortfall, according to the revised conservation program adopted by the water board on Wednesday.

“It does appear we have an adequate water supply for the next three years,” said Jennifer Burke, deputy director of water resources for Santa Rosa.

Read more at: Mandatory water savings may soon be over for most Sonoma County residents | The Press Democrat

Filed under Sustainable Living, Water

State Water Board adopts ‘stress test’ approach to water conservation regulation

MAVEN’S NOTEBOOK

The State Water Resources Control Board today adopted a statewide water conservation approach that replaces the prior percentage reduction-based water conservation standard with a localized “stress test” approach that mandates urban water suppliers act now to ensure at least a three year supply of water to their customers under drought conditions.

Recognizing persistent yet less severe drought conditions throughout California, the newly adopted emergency regulation will replace the Feb. 2 emergency water conservation regulation that set specific water conservation benchmarks at the state level for each urban water supplier. Today’s adopted regulation, which will be in effect through January 2017, requires locally developed conservation standards based upon each agency’s specific circumstances.

These standards require local water agencies to ensure a three-year supply assuming three more dry years like the ones the state experienced from 2012 to 2015.  Water agencies that would face shortages under three additional dry years will be required to meet a conservation standard equal to the amount of shortage. For example, if a water agency projects it would have a 10 percent supply shortfall, their mandatory conservation standard would be 10 percent.

Read more at: MAVEN’S NOTEBOOK – Water news

Filed under Sustainable Living, Water