Coastkeeper says Water Authority’s misguided long-term strategy gets a pass despite elevated need for conservation, water recycling
SAN DIEGO, July 31, 2015 – Yesterday, the Superior Court of the State of California ruled against San Diego Coastkeeper in its lawsuit against the San Diego County Water Authority for failing to account for the environmental impacts of water supply sources in its most recent plan.
Coastkeeper says the decision allows the Water Authority to continue business as usual, by and large not accounting for the energy, and the associated greenhouse gas emissions, that is required to move and treat the region’s water supplies in plans that define our water supply options for the next 20 years. Coastkeeper says that this plan and its impact on climate change will greatly affect the health and economic success of San Diego County because it will continue to exacerbate sea level rise and drought.
“The Water Authority’s continued dedication to a ‘Supply from the West’ approach to the region’s water supply not only discounts the true cost of our region’s water, but contributes to the climate change that compels us to search for new supply options,” said Coastkeeper Executive Director Megan Baehrens. “San Diego Coastkeeper will remain vigilant in its role as a watchdog for the region’s water supply and continue to strongly advocate for common sense solutions like conservation and recycling. These options can greatly improve our water supply health today and in the future.”
In particular, says Coastkeeper, this comes on the heels of yesterday’s news from the California State Water Resources Control Board announcing a suite of enforcement actions against water agencies that failed to meet the Governor’s emergency mandate to reduce water use by 25 percent.
“We’re disappointed in this decision that allows the Water Authority to prioritize costly, environmentally-damaging water supply options over efficient sources like conservation and water recycling,” said Everett DeLano, the attorney representing San Diego Coastkeeper. “And, as if to underscore the need for foresight in water supply planning, this ruling was issued on the same day that our state announced enforcement actions to ensure agencies and cities aggressively pursue conservation in the face of a continued extreme drought.”
Coastkeeper filed suit under the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA), a state law that requires the agency to identify and address environmental impacts of its actions. The lawsuit sought to hold the Water Authority accountable for legal requirements addressing the greenhouse gas emissions resulting from its water supply plan.
The water supply plan, officially called the Regional Water Facilities Optimization and Master Plan Update, explores the region’s needs for and options to address water supply, and sets precedent for related decisions through 2035. On March 27, the Water Authority approved this plan and its accompanying Supplemental Program Environmental Impact Report and Climate Action Plan. Coastkeeper had been part of the planning process since early 2013 and repeatedly called on the Water Authority to prioritize and incentivize conservation—our region’s most readily available and cost-effective source of new water—and recycling and to implement an appropriate greenhouse gas reduction plan. The Water Authority declined to incorporate this public feedback.
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