California’s increasingly volatile climate is the new normal, and Bay Area businesses and water agencies are coming up with innovative ways to adapt. That was the message from the Bay Area Council’s Wednesday forum, The New Normal: Climate, Water and the Economy, hosted by Morrison Foerster and sponsored by the California Water Foundation, AECOM and Arup. With an agenda that combined differing perspectives from business, Bay Area water agencies, Southern California, the Sierra Nevada and environmentalists, the forum yielded several key takeaways to be examined by the Council’s Water Committee to guide 2016 advocacy:

  • California’s water system is beleaguered by climate change, aging infrastructure, ecosystem decline, and groundwater overdraft
  • New investments are needed to fund a diverse portfolio of solutions, including water recycling, stormwater capture, and both surface and groundwater storage
  • Bay Area employers are taking up water conservation as a measure of corporate social responsibility
  • Data and sensor technology can cheaply and effectively help businesses and water agencies add supply by reducing waste and leaks
  • State leaders should create minimum data reporting standards on water bills to improve the ability of business to track use
  • The Bay Area Council has identified 19 water recycling, desal, flood, data, and storage projects needed to improve regional climate resiliency. These projects are being pursued by four of the region’s largest water agencies, including the San Francisco Public Utilities District, Santa Clara Valley Water District, East Bay Municipal Utility District, Contra Costa Water District
  • The state should move towards more nuanced conservation targets that reflect the diversity of water use rates and sources found across the state
  • The Sacramento-San Joaquin delta is oversubscribed, and an update to the delta’s water quality standards are long overdue
  • More floodplains in delta can help recover endangered species
  • Improved forest management and meadowland restoration in the Sierra’s can improve water quality and storage downstream.

Special thanks to Assemblymember Marc Levine (San Rafael) for providing opening remarks, and to California Water Foundation Executive Director Lester Snow for setting the tone with his presentation on the statewide challenge. See the agenda for full the list of full speakers, and here for the full presentation. To engage with the Bay Area Council Water Committee, please contact Policy Director Adrian Covert.

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