CATALYST: CALIFORNIA – August 11, 2015
Carl: Hello everyone and welcome to Catalyst where we’re helping redefine water’s future. I’m J. Carl Ganter, Director of Circle of Blue and we have a big task ahead of us not just over the next few hours or few weeks but in the months and years ahead and while we wait for a few others to join us in this conversation today, a quick technical note, if you’re on the web, be sure to log in to the social webinar function to participate fully. The link is in your invitation confirmation email and as a reminder, that’s social.maestroconference, that’s spelled m-a-e-s-t-r-o conference.com, that’s social.maestroconference.com. If you’re only dialed in by phone, of course participating by voice is fine too, you’ll miss some of the visuals. So let’s take just a moment to get to know each other and first you are connecting from around the globe, that’s fun to note, many of you are in California while others are in Colorado, New York, Stockholm, Denmark, Australia, Italy, China and India, across a lot of time zones today. And we’re coming to you today from the studios of Interlock and Public Radio in Michigan and Southern California Public Radio in Pasadena. So we’re going to do a quick poll, we’re going to test out the system while we wait for everybody else to join us and dial in, to see who we’ve got on the call. You can use your keypad on your phone or your caller dashboard on your screen, I would announce the answer, so here’s a couple of simple questions to get you warmed up. If you’re representing an NGO or non-profit, press 1; if you’re a business or farm, press 2; if you are a member of the government regulatory world, press 3; the media press, 4; or just your…on your own, press 5. Again, if you’re representing an NGO or non-profit, press 1; business or farm, press 2; government, press 3; media, press, 4; or yourself, press 5, and we’ll take a look at the numbers, and I’m trying to see exactly what we have here, it looks nicely distributed, heavier on the number 1 which is NGO or non-profit. So it’s a couple of minutes after the hour and hopefully most everyone has dialed in and if you’re just joining us, I’m J. Carl Ganter, Director of Circle of Blue and today we launched another series of conversations critically timed as California, the nation and the world face accelerating water stress. Can California and global society reshape the big institutions, infrastructure and practices to thrive in an area of water scarcity? Well, today we have a terrific line up of guests to help us answer these earthing questions or at least explore them much more deeply. We’re joined by Felicia Marcus who’s the Chair of California State Water Resources Control Board; Nadine Bailey, Chief Operations Officer of the Family Water Alliance; Steven Gregory, Environment Editor at Southern California Public Radio; Kevin Klowden, Managing Director of the California Center at the Milken Institute and Robert Wilkinson who’s the Director of the Water Policy Program at the University of California Santa Barbara. So if you joined us in April you are among really the first to hear about the ramifications of California’s extremely low [Inaudible 01:06:01.04]. In fact the numbers came in during our call, we’re also looking into the future imagining how it dries summer might unfold. Well, today we’re going to hear from you and our expert discussion leaders what has happened since April and then next Tuesday in another session, we’ll talk about adaptation to “new normals” and try to answer the timely question: “Will El Nino save the day?”, in fact, we’ll be watching the new tomorrow for some updated reports and don’t miss Tuesday, August 25th when we’ll be broadcasting live from World Water Week in Stockholm and the One Water Leadership Conference in San Francisco and we’ve also expanded the capacity of these events so please feel free to invite your colleagues and your other networks to participate. So, as many of you know, here at Circle blue we like to ask good questions and we try to spot important trends and we’d like to be on the ground with the best traditions of journalism, science and data collection to understand some of the world’s most complex stories and we’d like to bring people together like you to seek the solutions. So have a look at the results at circleofblue.org, our ongoing coverage and learn more about past and upcoming events like this one in the Catalyst series. And we also want to hear from you during today’s events and the weeks ahead and share your questions and comments via Twitter, use the hash tag cadrought and then again that’s Twitter #cadrought or you can submit your questions via the window on your screen and if you’re not logged in, you can email your questions to email@example.com, that’s firstname.lastname@example.org and you’ll also have the opportunity to discuss these issues live during today’s events, during the unique features of the event provided by MaestroConference which is providing unique technology platform for the series.
Carl: Well now we’re going to jump right in and ask two of our guest to set the California scene for us. And with us today is Kevin Klowden, Director of the California Center at the Milken Institute in Santa Monica, California and Steven Gregory, Environment Editor at KPCC, Southern California Public Radio and Pasadena. We’re going to start with Kevin, so Kevin, California is drought it’s not just another water story, it’s an economic and finance story, it’s a policy story even a help story. The theme we’ve been talking about is re balancing, what I’d like you to do is give us a sense from your perspective, how the state, I mean you’re right in the middle of it, how the state is rebalancing on so many levels?
Kevin: Well fundamentally, but thank you very much by the way for having me today, but fundamentally what you’re seeing is that the state is changing a lot of the different attitude it historically had towards water, California has gone through numerous droughts in the past and even some of the more severe ones such as back in the 1970’s. There have been attitude changes that have lasted as long as the drought but generally things have reverted back to normal afterwards. What you’re seeing now is a profound change in which the communities are fundamentally realizing stated urban level that water is not just going to be free and might be available that is not just a matter of not having a water automatically available at your table at a restaurant but a matter of how you build homes, how you build commercial structures with farms it’s a matter of truly investing in everything ranging from water storage to much more efficient irrigation. And it’s changing even our green energy strategies, a number of cities around Central California have been dependent on Local Hydroelectric Power Generation and that of course is suffered dramatically if not disappeared during this period. If even gone so far is to wipe out most of the games from solar installations. So, we’re seeing numerous changes and we’re seeing changes in what kind of jobs people look at. If people want to go into an agricultural job now, its water technology or something designed to deal with the future rather than may some of the management jobs and more traditional agricultural jobs in the past.
Carl: Thanks Kevin, I really appreciate that overview, that’s terrific. So now, I want to go to Steven Gregory at KPCC Southern California Public Radio and the Journalist on the Front Lines have been covering some emerging crisis for a long time. How do you see this story changing as we look forward also over the next few months? What are your plans there?
Steve: Well, it’s interesting, we’ve been following the drought in Southern California very closely over these past few years. The story has really taking on kind of a critical mass over the past few months, certainly since April 1st when Governor Brown called for the mandatory 25 percent reduction because prior to that, I think for a lot of folks in Southern California the drought was largely an obstruction, Kevin talked about, you know, we’re also used to string on the tap and having the water come out and not really think about, where it comes from and of course in Southern California, 80 percent of our water is imported whether it’s from Northern California or the Colorado River we have a lot of heavy lifting to do here and fortunately, you know, we have… then starting to see signs of that heavy lifting. So for instance, we’re in the South Coast Hydrologic Region and that we have about 177 water agencies down here and quite frankly we use probably the most water of any Hydrologic Region, in the state just given our population. And so all that 177 about 60 percent of those agencies are sort of on target from meeting their mandatory conservation standard which Felicia and the rest of the Water Boards sets last May and an epic, I don’t know if everybody was watching it but it was just really gripping, live, streaming Felicia, hats off to you guys for going 16 hours I think in finishing up at 9:30 with those final policies, it was truly, you know, an epic spectacle of policy making, but that’s said, you know, we, you know, the South coast, I think folks do take this seriously now and you see it in subtle ways, young people are putting lawn signs on their lawns saying, you know, “No H2O” or they’re just letting their lawns die or, you know, people are driving around the dirty in their car, the more, you know, sort of a points of frog you can rock up because, you’re basically telling other motorists I’m not washing my car and then in fact the City of Ventura came out and their having a contest, you know, go dirty for the drought and people who have the dirtiest car win some kind of prize, so there’s definitely like ground level support. There’s a little bit of a disconnect, I’d think between homeowners and apartment dwellers probably because apartment dwellers are in the situation where their just often not clear how much water their using where’s homeowner gets the bill every month. So, but that said, you know, we in social media and through… here in KPCC we have something called the public insight network where we stay in touch with many of our members, many of whom our or been apartment dwellers her in Southern California and, you know, there is this growing sense that the people are putting buckets in their shower to catch, you know, the water while the water is heating up or, they’re being mindful to turn the tap off while they brush their teeth or taking other steps to cut water. So, it does feel like, you know, we hit a point where everyone seems to be pulling in the same direction down here.
Carl: Great thanks Steven, again Carl Ganter here with Circle of Blue and that was Steven Gregory, Environment Editor at Southern California Public Radio. To set us up, in a moment we’ll be joined by Circle of Blue Reporter Brett Walton, who will introduce our other guests in our discussions but first a reminder to share your questions and your comments via Twitter use the #cadrought that’s cadrought or you can submit your questions via the window on your screen and if you’re not logged in go ahead and email your questions to us at email@example.com, that’s firstname.lastname@example.org.
Carl: And now let’s go to Brett Walton of Circle of Blue who’s going to introduce our guests and keep us moving here, Brett.
Brett: Thanks Carl. So a reminder to our audience to share your questions via Facebook, that’s facebook.com/circleofblue or at Twitter with the #cadrought and our twitter handle is @circleofblue. So, 2015 has been a remarkable year for California that’s pretty clear. There’s a lowest snow pack on record, there’s restrictions for what have been the most secure water rights in the state perhaps six hundred thousand farm acres were fallowed and there’s been thousands of dry wells in rural parts of the state. But the pain this year’s been a long time in development. Precipitation in 7 of the last 9 years has been below normal, and this is a longer trend than just these 4 years. The question is, “How is the state managing this emergency?” So, today we’re joined by three people who’re deeply involved in California’s water, as Regulators, Farm Advocates and Advisers. So we’ll hear short opening statements from each panelist before we go deeper into the issues. So, first panelist is Felicia Marcus, she’s the Chair of the State Water Resources Control Board, that’s the agency that’s been at the forefront of California’s Drought Response. The State Water Board is charged with protecting water quality, administrating the state’s water rate system. This year the board has also developed standards for the state’s first ever Mandatory Urban Water Restriction, so Felicia.
Felicia: Thanks very much and thanks to the preceding speakers… and you for setting a great tone, I’m thrilled to be here. You know, we talked about how bad this drought is and lots of snowpack and it puts it over the top, interesting one in the sense that it’s a drought of clearly historical proportions in terms of the history that we’ve recorded but it’s not the worst in history in California, as we know we’ve had much longer ones, so 40 years, 400 years, apparently we really had a dozy around the time of Henry the VIIIth and we can count on this sort of thing happening more often but what we’ve seen in our time in Australia is a set of folks who had the same on average 3 year drought cycle that we had experienced through the last hundred years or so that we’d come to rely on just in our sense of what was happening in time the 2000; theirs lasted 10 or 12 years depending on where you are. So the goal could have guided our response since the beginning of the drought declaration which was an early drought declaration would act earlier than hope might suggest. We learned from the Australians that hope is definitely not a strategy as they kept thinking they were in a 3 year drought cycle for about 6 years and then they hit their 3 worst years yet and had to throw billions of dollars at everything all at once including a whole fleet of de-sal facilities that are sitting, had never been operated and they’re still paying for. So our goals were to listen to the Australian’s and do the cheaper thing first and above all to conserve early and prepare for the worst as you hope for the best. We also wanted to try to avoid adding to economic harm in some of our choices which is why you’d see as focusing on landscaping, have an opportunity.. ornamental landscaping as an opportunity to save water since early in Californian’s use on average 50 percent of the water they use outdoors and don’t even realize it. And frankly doing a lot of balancing as best we can across a whole range of actors, I’ll talk about that in a second. And then finally to try and figure out how to accelerate those actions that we know we have to do anyway in the face of climate change where all the predictions say we’re going to lose our snow pack as the temperature rises and more precipitation falls as rain rather than snow, we know we’re going to have more people. We also know that food securities can be an increasing issue around the globe and around the nation in California‘s one of only five Mediterranean climates that can reliably grow the level of fruits and vegetables that we can grow.
So what do we do? And it sort of hits on all cylinders for us.Conservation is something that hasn’t really been in our daily look that the governor gave us some emergency authority to do, and hasn’t explained, we tried the voluntary call and then we actually tried the lighter touch Mandatory Regulation to try and scoot or nudge water agencies into taking actions cause they were hesitating and then finally as even explained, the 25 percent mandatory’s, you know, tiered; and we implemented those and frankly people are doing great now, folks have gotten the message and many communities are really blowing the doors off, and it’s fantastic. On water quality side we busted our butts in the beginning of the drought to try and accelerate recycled water. Recycled water is the next thing after conservation cheapest, faster, if it’s right there we have it particularly in our large urban community so we put up hundreds and millions of dollars in low cost financing to try and goose it and streamline it for agricultural and outdoor use in ground water recharge in the water rights system, I’m happy to talk about this later people are asking probably the hardest arena, were actually implementing the water right system like it’s never been implemented before because we’re in an unprecedented level of drought, a water right system is like most of the West, it is a first in time, first in right, have 19th century principles based on minors rules where the most senior get a hundred percent of their right and the juniors are cut off a hundred percent which is why are some are areas are hurt so badly and others seemed to be doing quite well it’s very, very uneven but were implementing not only what are the junior water rights that’s been post 1914, water rights holders but even the junior seniors and they’ll be litigation galore for years over that but it’s just never been this dry before. We’ve also had to make some very tough balancing decisions, the board affirmed with conditions a number of decisions toward executive director made last year, he’s making more this year were we have these terrible hobbesian choice or what kind choice you would call it were we’ve got conditions on projects on our water rights to meet water quality standards that will set for wet, normal, dry or critically dry years but not insanely unprecedented dry years and so we’ve slashed fish flows to preserve water and storage, we’ve slashed exports, we’ve slashed all kinds of things to try and preserve water and our major storages to maintain salinity control in the delta so that we don’t end up making that water completely useless for urban or “agg” users in the delta and beyond and then perhaps in the most important arena drinking water which is now a part of the State Water Board we have been getting emergency money out the door to help communities by bottled water vending machines, drill well and run pipes because we’ve got small rural communities who’ve been running out of water over the past year and a half, we’ve been riding to the rescue with the OES and the department of water resources. What did we learn? We learned that we can actually move pretty quickly and keep presence of mind in a crises. And we’ve also learned that people do rise to the occasion and many do respect the public is way ahead of their agency to watch this year, for folks and now risen to the occasion in our urban arena. Also found farmers stepping up to help fish and you don’t get that in the headlines so much. And I try to keep that in mind that’s people are playing to the extremes which of course doesn’t help us, as we’re supposed to balance and try to maximize beneficial uses. And so that’s a good thing, and we also learn perhaps, most importantly we knew it, but it’s really been displayed that we have pretty darned clumsy tools for implementing the water rights system, it’s been historically underfunded and under staffed, this is the first administration that given us more authority and more staff and supported a legislation to give us even more. And then on the communication scene, this the last thing I’d say we’ve learned of goals, actions and learned is that really very few people have a broad view of California Water that, you know, and that includes people in the professional advocacy world but very few people in general have a broad view of California Water that they don’t know where their water comes from, they don’t know where their food comes from certainly don’t know the water content of their food, folks don’t know how much water takes to do all sort of things. Again, and then the professional advocates know your piece of the elephant, so to speak very, very well and repeat themselves but then on actually understand other people legitimate interest and so the advocacy in front of us tells us that we’ve got a big water literacy challenge in front of us and again that’s not a criticism of folks who lead very busy lives, very busy lives, but it makes a challenging to manage in a sound bite world which is frankly why your coverage and engagement has been so appreciated, it’s a level of conversation and detail it goes beyond the sound bite world and I found it incredibly useful over the past year and a half or two.
Carl: Excellent, thank you very much Felicia. Our next guest is Nadine Bailey, she’s the Chief Operating Officer for the Family Water Alliance, which is the coalition of people, her concern about the future of agriculture, private property rights, rural communities and a balance between man and nature. The only Water Alliance is based in Maxwell, California and The Sacramento Valley, so welcome Nadine.
Nadine: Thank you and I will definitely agree with Felicia a forum where you actually have time discuss these very complex issues like water is needed. These issues are not able to be discuss in detail and in a sound bite world and they’re so complex that like Felicia said many people don’t understand that you can’t… you’re not wasting water when you put it on the farm field cause those farmers are growing food for you. Rice grown in the Sacramento Valley goes all over the world and in some cultures rice is so important they don’t call you to dinner, they call you to rice, so we know what are function is in the world, we feed people and this is a great opportunity to share some of the things we do. In addition to being in the Family Water Alliance were also the Sacramento Valley Fish Screen Program. We have been screening agricultural diversions since the 1990’s and what we do is make sure that when you’re diverting from the Sacramento for agriculture that you’re not picking up endangered Salmon and putting those on the field as well. So we have kind of the unique perspective, we believe that you can have them both, you can have farms and fish and a good economy if you work together to do those types of things. Recently, we kicked off a new website called “Save California, Build Water Storage” and while conserving and recycling will help solve the problem in California, we really need to upgrade our water system and build more storage, that in this time of climate change we can capture that rain water that we’re missing right now and so that’s an important component of what we do. And we had a little event we took water down to East Porter Ville. East Porter Ville is one of the communities that has run out of water and it was eye opening to me: Number 1, How difficult it is to move water from 500 miles away to people that don’t have it and what it’s like to live in a place where there is no water, you turn on the tap and nothing comes out. And I think that people don’t realize how close we are to many communities being in that situation, so we need to work together to solve those problems. Because what I thought were elderly people that couldn’t afford air-conditioning, you not being able to use our swamp coolers because swamp coolers run on water. And if you ever been East Porter Ville in the Fresmp area the average temperature in that summer in the 90s, so you have a whole community that doesn’t even able to cool their home or have waters to flush their toilet or to take a shower. So, that’s not what we want for the future of California, that’s why Family Water Alliance is working on some of these programs to ensure that we have water for future generations. Our water system was built 60 years ago and supplies drinking water to the 25 million people and 750 thousand acres of farm land. And it’s a water system that needs upgrades. Our water system here was designed to capture cold winter snow pack which we no longer are getting and have it’s as one of the previous speakers said it’s been in decline for the last several years. So, we have enough water to meet needs right now if we would simply capture our flood water before it goes down to the ocean and use it several times and then let it go back into the ocean, so that’s why. In addition to conserving and recycling storage also have to be an option for California’s Water System. And then the other thing I’ll talk about is that, we’ll talk about the upgrades that the impact of climate change and forest management on water sheds, you can’t talk about water in California without talking about forests. The forests are water shed and like two weeks ago we had a devastating dry lightning storm that set fires all over Northern California. Yesterday, I couldn’t see to the end of my street because the smoke was so dense. They declared an unsafe air quality day and made, and cancelled any children’s event that was outside because of the danger from the forest fire smoke and that wood that is burning is our water shed, the place that holds our water during the summer and the winter. So we really need to think about forest management as we talk about water. We need to stop drawing circles around things and an old paradigm to save them and look at an integrative environmental policy that takes people into account and looks down the road fifty to a hundred years with our environmental policy to fix some of the mistakes that we’ve made in the last 20 years. And those of some of the things I’ll be talking about on my panel.
Carl: Excellent, thanks you so much Nadine. Food, farms, water force their all connected as their saying in this summer. Our third panellist is Dr. Robert Wilkinson, his Adjunct Professor at the Bren School of Environmental Science and Management at the University of California in Santa Barbara. Robert Wilkinson teaching, research and consulting focused on water and energy policy climate change and environmental policy issues. He serves as an adviser for the California Climate Action Team and the State Water Plan and for agency including The California Energy Commission State Water Resources Control Board and the Department of Water Resources and thanks for being here Bob.
Bob: No, it’s a pleasure to be here, I appreciate your setting these calls up and in furthering this public education process, all of this learning together. I just hope downs a little bit higher level to this opener and then we can dig, you know, a little bit more but myself says were focus but perhaps preoccupied right now on drought. And I live through that the 70’s drought here in California and the 80’s to 90’s. Way back into the 70’s, we had early programs we’re Cash for Grass, change your landscape out to a more efficient landscape a kind of program on, we got the early plumbing efficiency standards, we were great proud of ourselves back then with going from 5 plus gallons per flush toilets stand a low flow toilet which were three and a half gallons of flush and of course now were at around a gallon of flush for good toilets or less. So we’re learning only we get technical development and power saved up. We’ve also seemed to forget then a lot of things each cycle we have a drought and then it rains again and that’s a flip I think we were preoccupied a little with, we were going to dry cycle but we can fully expect to have wet cycles and in fact that’s fast more help weather webs along the dry or dry so we really need to keep in mind more help unless we saw Felicia mentioned Australia, I had a chance to work quite a bit over the last decade down there and during the drought melt has ended. And by chance, I was down there when it started raining, when it rain and it flooded and that, the whole game shift with after about a decade of drought and it was as Felicia said a difficult thing when you’re spent many billions of dollars on it, the structure desalinization plants but suddenly there all mothballed because that wasn’t an investment that actually was the one they needed most and so in all but Perth all the major cities built them and then mothballed them and that infrastructure just sitting perhaps waiting for the next drought but in the meantime, they’re back to the efficiency with rainwater harvesting, recycling all of the stuff that people talked about. So I guess I concluded that I’m not (unintelligible) but you’ve said I’m not young enough to know everything that. So I need to kind of step back put it in perspective. But the things I want to talk about or ah, some of the policy challenges, I think the water rights challenges in particular are intriguing. it was exactly a hundred years after 1914 that the state board really had to use the tools such as they are and they’re quite imperfect and help people to again sort out where they are in line. So that set of policy frames from local agencies up to the state and Federal Government but then also the individual and technical opportunities all I’ll go through those and then I’ll take up some in the breakout group on the energy water nexus work that I’ve done on understanding better the energy and applications that some of the water choices and in fact were good water strategies could help as well on the mission reduction of some climate response strategies.
Carl: Excellent, thanks so much Bob. So hearing and more from him on Hydropower and Energy it takes to operate this state very massive and substantial water system. So thanks again. These are three panellists. From now we’re going to move into large breakout groups where you’ll have a chance to discuss further and spend more time with each of your panellists. So group 1, will join Felicia Marcus, Chair of the California State Water Resources Control Board, group 2 will be with Nadine Bailey, Chief Operation Officer of The Family Water Alliance and group 3 will join Robert Wilkinson, Director of the Water Policy Program at the University of California in Santa Barbara.