Resolution of Phase 8 of the State Water Resources Control Board Proceedings for the Sacramento Valley

The Sacramento Valley Water Management Agreement (Agreement) is a grassroots, collaborative effort to increase water supplies for farms, cities and the environment. Most notably, this regional program for the Sacramento Valley, which is built upon local partnerships in the Sacramento Valley, has led to unprecedented collaboration with historically warring parties throughout California, including Southern California, the San Joaquin Valley, the Central Coast and certain parts of the Bay area.

In December 2002, more than forty water suppliers in the Sacramento Valley executed the Short-Term Settlement Agreement (Agreement) and it has been executed by the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation; the California Department of Water Resources; the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service; the California Department of Fish and Game; the State Water Contractors representing agricultural and municipal water users in Southern California, the Central Coast and the San Joaquin Valley; and Contra-Costa Water District. This Agreement builds upon the Short-Term Stay Agreement executed by these parties in April 2001.

As a result of the Agreement, the Phase 8 process was dismissed by State Water Resources Control Board (Board) order on January 31, 2003. As background, the Board in 1996 engaged in proceedings to determine the responsibility to meet water quality standards in the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta (delta). The Board has completed phases 1 through 7 of this proceeding (Decision 1641), and it is now focused upon phase 8 involving the Sacramento River and its tributaries. In this proceeding, the Department of Water Resources and the Bureau of Reclamation, as operators of the state and federal export projects, have claimed that certain water right holders in the Sacramento Valley must cease diversions or release water from storage to help meet water quality standards in the delta. Sacramento Valley water users have claimed that their water use has not contributed to any water quality problems in the delta, and, as senior water right holders and water users within the watershed and counties of origin, they are not responsible for meeting these standards.

To implement the Agreement, Northern California water districts and companies have proposed more than fifty projects that will be part of both short and long-term work plans that are being developed by a team of leading hydrologists and engineers. These projects will protect Northern California water rights and they include groundwater planning and monitoring projects, providing for unmet demands in the Sacramento Valley, system improvement and water use efficiency measures, conjunctive management and surface water re-operation projects. (See Executive Summary.) Groundwater protection is central to this work plan. Unlike many past efforts, local water users have proposed these work plan projects and they will be managed and controlled by the local interests without interference from outside the Sacramento Valley. Additionally, the parties are currently preparing a program environmental review and they will jointly seek public funds, including Proposition 50, to help implement many of these projects.

NCWA has testified on numerous occasions to Congress, the California Legislature, the State Water Resources Control Board and numerous other state and local entities throughout California.